The Consumer as Responsible Energy Citizen – The Discussion on Political Consumerism, and a Practical Approach
Welcome to our lunch seminar with Thor Øivind Jensen, Professor Emeritus at Department of administration and organisation theory, UiB.
The climate challenge has made the discussion on political consumerism important in new ways. The consumer is both seen as the problem and as part of the solution. The basic positions are linked to traditional political cleavages, where both right and left will see the consumer’s potential in the light of their traditional ideologies, both pointing away from recognizing the consumer as an actor.
The academic debate has also been quite negative to the role of consumer as a platform for responsible change due to a hedonistic and manipulated nature of consumption, the critique being strong in Norway. From these rather pessimistic starting points there are also significant changes on many levels that opens up for consumer action, organization and results. Climate action, including energy issues, seem to be well fitted for consumer action, being a “weak common value that are not handled well by traditional politics”.
We will visit the different positions in the debate. From a more practical perspective we will look into how institutional setups in markets and politics makes it possible or difficult for Norwegian consumers to take an active role in energy transition and if this is a probable development. The transition from centralized energy production to downscaleable and market-based technologies (sun, wind, smart metering, marked and technology development) open up possibilities that play together with values and actor-consciousness. Present structures in both market and public policy are both helping and blocking, making a clear answer difficult. My personal conclusions are quite positive to consumer possibilities, especially in climate matters.
Our new book on consumer sociology is the basis for the presentation (Jensen/Jacobsen/Knudsen/Schjelderup (red) Forbrukersosiologi: Bærekraft, digitalisering, identitet og makt. Fagbokforlaget 2021, Kap 17,22-27) (relevant chapters available for seminar participants)
About the speaker:
Thor Øivind Jensen is associate professor emeritus at Department of Administration and Organization Theory, UiB. He has worked on several policy areas (health, food, digital changes, regulation, planning, energy and climate, all from a consumer/client perspective).