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Consumer empowerment: a Foucauldian interpretation

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to question the taken for granted assumptions that underpin a liberal or lay view of consumer empowerment implicit to this special edition. In particular, the idea that it benefits consumers to have more choice is questioned. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The key constructs of Michel Foucault ‐ disciplinary power, governmentality and technologies of self ‐ are used to argue that people can never escape from the operation of power. Rather it is shown how power operates to produce consumers. Findings ‐ The liberal view of the empowerment of consumers through choice is questioned. Rather we suggest the opposite; that choice is a disciplinary power and that more and more choice can lead to choice paralysis. The contemporary phenomenon known as blogging is described as a Foucauldian technology of self. Managerial implications are discussed. Originality/value ‐ The value of a Foucauldian inspired theory of empowerment is that it represents a more sophisticated understanding of the fluidity of power relationships between producers and consumers than can be captured by a liberal view of power and empowerment.
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Keywords: Consumers; Empowerment; Internet

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 September 2006

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