Strongly sustainable consumption and a case of mistaken identity: A qualitative study on environmentally concerned individuals

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


This chapter deals with the relationship between consumption, identity, and ecological sustainability. Identity matters a great deal for sustainable consumption, but perhaps not in the ways usually portrayed i.e. in the form of an identity-void, which seen as the largest identity-related barrier to reductions in consumption. We argue that this might be an exaggerated concern because: i) what in contemporary dominant theories is discussed is not so much identity, but image and style; ii) other sources than consumption are still relevant in the formation, maintenance and expression of identity; iii) the most ecologically damaging forms of consumption (housing, food, and partly transport), the type of consumption that needs to be reduced the most, is not mainly identity-based or driven, but instead mostly everyday practices performed by people locked-in by structures and forms of ‘institutional consumption’. Our empirical study suggests that it might be useful to look at consumerism as a form of governmentality that influences people, their imaginaries, values, and identities – so that even environmentally aware individuals have difficulties thinking outside the consumer identity box and the tools it offers, and thereby disempowering them by denying them agency as political actors, as citizens, and hindering them in the creation of the political space needed for strongly sustainable consumption policies. This may very well be the largest and most serious identity-related barrier to reductions in consumption.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStrongly Sustainable Societies : Organising Human Activities on a Hot and Full Earth
EditorsKarl Johan Bonnedahl, Pasi Heikkurinen
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxon ; New York
Publication date2019
ISBN (Print)978-0-8153-8722-0, 978-0-8153-8721-3
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-351-17364-3
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeA3 Book chapter

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in Sustainability


  • 999 Others
  • consumption
  • Identity
  • ecological sustainability
  • degrowth
  • consumerism
  • strong sustainability
  • agency
  • citizenship
  • 512 Business and Management


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