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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

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Originally published in Journal of Macromarketing, Vol 22(2): 170–181. doi:10.1177/0276146702238220 Access published version here:


This article examines the limitations of the concept of sustainable consumption in terms of the inadequate attention given to the social, cultural and historical contextualization of consumption. I argue that Macromarketing should adopt modes of inquiry that more fully engage with this contextualization. The implicit assumptions of ‘sustainable consumption’ center on the rational individual and his or her needs and wants, and neglect the significance of consumption practices as embodying the relations between individuals. Acts of consumption are not in opposition to, and prior to, macro structures and processes, they are macro processes at work. Consumer practices are cultural and social practices that have historically developed, and are manifestations of both local and global linkages of social interdependencies. To continually look at the consumer as the cause of the ecological problem effectively decontextualizes consumption from such interdependencies. It posits a macro problem onto a micro situation and seeks the solution there.