An age of consumer nationalism?

February 4, 2017 Comments Off on An age of consumer nationalism?

hamburguesaWalls planned by ‘America First’ President of the United States; the Brexit progression to ‘Make Britain Great Again’; a growing cross-European populism trying to keep the national-order-of-things; multinational states under reinforced claims for self-determination; increasing tension around the Russian borders to recover a global influence; serious dispute for tiny islands’ between China and Japan… There is no doubt that we are facing a new wave of conflicts fueled by nationalists motivations.

Like in other moments of history, this nationalism has economic consequences. But today, nationalism is not merely expressed in the already known ‘economic nationalism’ attached to old practices like taxing foreign products or protecting the national labour market, and so on. National tensions have also consequences on a wide range of comercial and consumer daily basis practices. Therefore, there are very different, sophisticated or sometimes banalized, forms of what we know as consumer nationalism: a wide range of consumer practices and discourses attached to motivations grounded on nationalism. Are we perhaps living in an age of consumer nationalism?

Jointly with Sabina Mihelj, we have published an article in which we try to better define this phenomenon and to distinguish different types of consumer nationalism. The article has been published by the Journal of Consumer Culture:

Enric Castelló & Sabina Mihelj

In recent years, nations have regained prominence as central symbols of political unity and mobilization, and proved capable of serving political goals across the political spectrum. Yet, the current revival of the national extends well beyond the realm of politics; it is anchored in the logic of global capitalism, and has become inextricably intertwined with the practices of promotion and consumption. Our article seeks to map the interface between nationalism and economic life, and bring some clarity to the so far fragmented debate on the topic, which developed under diverse headings such as ‘economic nationalism’, ‘nation branding’, ‘consumer ethnocentrism’ and ‘commercial nationalism’. We focus more closely on developing the concept of consumer nationalism, which received little sustained attention in cultural studies and in social sciences and humanities more generally. We offer a definition of consumer nationalism, situate it vis-a-vis the broader phenomena of economic nationalism and political consumerism, and propose an analytical distinction between political consumer nationalism and symbolic consumer nationalism. Drawing on existing literature we then consider a range of examples and examine how these two forms of consumer nationalism become involved in the reproduction of nationalism, taking into account both consciously nationalist discourses and practices as well as the more banal, everyday forms of nationalism.

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