The Myth of the Powerful Consumer: Deconstructing the Collective Belief, Michelle Gabriel

The notion that the consumer is in a position of power relative to corporations is taken for granted by corporations, economists, and consumers in today’s mass consumption landscape. This research question and ultimately debunks the belief in the powerful consumer through (1) the concept of power and sexuality put forth by Foucault, (2) fashion as discourse discussed by Barthes, (3) analysis of French and Raven’s uses of power, and (4) consumer interviews. This research shows that consumers are not aware of all the tools for power at their disposal, do not see an alternative to consumption as viable, are unable to extricate themselves from normative dynamics inhibiting their ability to question their position, are trapped by their desires for consumption, and want to see themselves as a powerful entity. Further, this research demonstrates that corporations have the greater power relative to consumers, are invested in perpetuating the myth of the powerful consumer and use their power to reinforce their position. The discussion is concluded by addressing the implications of this research at a societal level,
namely in service of sparking a dialog at a policy, cultural, and economic levels about power and

keywords: consumer, corporations, fashion, clothing, power, consumption, late capitalism

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