Good Consumers? - Normality and Sustainability in Consumer Culture


  • Riikka Aro, MA, MSc, Doctoral Student University of Jyväskylä


consumer culture, normality, sustainability, deviance, frugality, mentality


The goal of this article is to review and bring to light some of the the discussions gaining more and more attention in critical consumer culture research; particularly those related to discursive normalising practices ('normality' is understood here to mean conforming to a norm: that which is typical) in contemporary Finnish consumer society. In this article, I do not aim at portraying a comprehensive or thorough investigation into the subject. Instead, I intend to open up some of the self-evidences of the prevailing consumer ideology and consider their repercussions and contradictions related to people's everyday lives from the perspective of ecological sustainability (i.e. enduring diversity, productivity and well-being of ecological and human activities; orig. concept from WCED 1987). This entails that I do not adhere to consumption critiques claiming that people are passive bystanders in their own lives as consumers. I commit to a critical standpoint, but not one which denies consumption its positive aspects, nor to the idea of consumers as prisoners of the global market forces. Relations are reciprocal, but not balanced with respect to power. Consumptions researcher Inge Røpke (1999, 402 - 403) writes: 'we are neither completely happy with ever increasing consumption, nor merely victims of producer-forced consumption'. Accordingly, the main premise therein is to avoid claiming that consumption as such is bad or immoral. lnstead I commit to the assertion that perpetual growth in consumption - from the perspective of (ecological) sustainability within the limits of our natural resources - is impossible (e.g. Daly 1991, 1996; Jackson 2009; Victor 2008).

Research Articles



How to Cite

Aro, R. (2010). Good Consumers? - Normality and Sustainability in Consumer Culture. Ethnologia Fennica, 37, 71–85. Retrieved from