Power and Politics in Sustainable Consumption Research and Practice: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Power and Politics in Sustainable Consumption Research and Practice

1st Edition

Edited by Cindy Isenhour, Mari Martiskainen, Lucie Middlemiss


208 pages | 7 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2019-03-20
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With growing awareness of environmental deterioration, atmospheric pollution and resource depletion, the last several decades have brought increased attention and scrutiny to global consumption levels. However, there are significant and well documented limitations associated with current efforts to encourage more sustainable consumption patterns, ranging from informational and time constraints to the highly individualizing effect of market-based participation.

This volume, featuring essays solicited from experts engaged in sustainable consumption research from around the world, presents empirical and theoretical illustrations of the various means through which politics and power influence (un)sustainable consumption practices, policies and perspectives. With chapters on compelling topics including collective action, behaviour-change and the transition movement, the authors discuss why current efforts have largely failed to meet environmental targets and explore promising directions for research, policy and practice.

Featuring contributions that will help the reader open up politics and power in ways that are accessible and productive and bridge the gaps with current approaches to sustainable consumption, this book will be of great interest to students and scholars of sustainable consumption and the politics of sustainability.


"This timely, accessible, and thought-provoking collection brings together leading scholars to deftly explore the systems and norms keeping us on pathways to social and ecological disintegration. It is a vital reminder that there are no easy wins when it comes to changing production and consumption patterns, with the authors facing key challenges head-on. An essential read for policy makers, change agents, business leaders, and researchers alike." -- Kersty Hobson, University of Cardiff, UK

"The authors of this book do not flinch from asking the hardest questions about the causes of climate change, the defining crisis of our time. They move the discussion of consumption and sustainability forward in new and important directions and challenge a lot of the accepted wisdom. Essential reading for anyone searching for ways to promote a more sustainable kind of consumer culture." -- Richard Wilk, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Indiana University, and Director of the Open Anthropology Institute, USA

"This is a bold and engaging book that tells it like it is: research, policy and practice in sustainable consumption have failed to take power, politics and social difference seriously. And in answer to this claim is offered a set of theoretically and empirically rich chapters by leading experts from around the world that critically interrogate a wide range of intersecting themes at multiple levels. It is exactly the kind of collection needed to shake up this emerging interdisciplinary field." -- Sherilyn MacGregor, Sustainable Consumption Institute and Politics Department, The University of Manchester, UK

Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Tables

Author Biographies


Power, Politics and Unsustainable Consumption

Lucie Middlemiss, Cindy Isenhour, Mari Martiskainen

Section I: On Political Economy and Sustainable Consumption

  1. A Consuming Globalism: On Power and the Post-Paris Agreement Politics of Climate and Consumption
  2. Cindy Isenhour

  3. Practice Does Not Make Perfect: Sustainable Consumption, Practice Theory and the Question of Power
  4. Dennis Soron

  5. Sources of Power for Sustainable Consumption: Where to Look
  6. Doris Fuchs, Sylvia Lorek, Antonietta Di Giulio, Rico Defila


    Section II: On Governmentality and the Notion of the Subject in Sustainable Consumption

  7. Pro-environmental Behaviour Change and Governmentality: Counter-Conduct and the Making up of Environmental Individuals
  8. Tom Hargreaves

  9. Freedom, Autonomy and Sustainable Behaviours: The Politics of Designing Consumer Choice
  10. Tobias Gumbert

  11. The ‘Double Dividend’ Discourse in Sustainable Consumption: A Critical Commentary
  12. Lucie Middlemiss, David Wingate and Anna Wesselink

    Section III: On the Politics of Identity and Difference in Sustainable Consumption

  13. Housing as a Function of Consumption and Production in the United Kingdom
  14. Mari Martiskainen

  15. Power and Politics in the (Work-Life) Balance: A Mixed Methods Evaluation of the Risks and Rewards of Downshifting
  16. Jacob Hammond & Emily Huddart Kennedy


  17. Who Participates in Community-Based Sustainable Consumption Projects and Why Does It Matter? A Constructively Critical Approach

Manisha Anantharaman, Emily Huddart Kennedy, Lucie Middlemiss and Sarah Bradbury


About the Editors

Cindy Isenhour is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and in the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine, USA.

Mari Martiskainen is a Research Fellow at Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex, UK

Lucie Middlemiss is Associate Professor in Sustainability, and Co-director of the Sustainability Research Institute, in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, UK.

About the Series

Routledge-SCORAI Studies in Sustainable Consumption

The past decade has seen a remarkable increase in academic and policy interest in the notion of sustainable consumption, particularly as the implementation challenges associated with a substantive international agreement on climate protection have become apparent.

Comprising edited collections, co-authored volumes and single author monographs, Routledge-SCORAI Studies in Sustainable Consumption aims to continue this process of intellectual consolidation, while simultaneously advancing conceptual and empirical contributions to this new and important field of study. In particular, this series will explore key issues such as the emergence of new modes of household provisioning, the evolution toward post-consumerist systems of social organization, novel approaches to consumption governance and innovative business models for sustainable lifestyles.

If you are interested in submitting a proposal, please contact Annabelle Harris, Editor for Environment and Sustainability: [email protected] 


The Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative (SCORAI) is an international knowledge network of approximately 1000 scholars and policy practitioners working at the interface of material consumption, human well-being, and technological and cultural change. For more information about SCORAI and its activities please visit http://www.scorai.org.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
NATURE / Ecology
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy
SCIENCE / Environmental Science