Investigating the meaning of electoral choice through a ‘consumer as choice maker' lens

This source preferred by Richard Scullion

Authors: Scullion, R.

Editors: Lillker, D. and Jackson, N.A.

Pages: 185-205

Publisher: Manchester University Press

Place of Publication: Manchester

Choice has always been a critical theme within politics - in all forms of democratic systems it has legitimising energy. One strand of political science seeks to understand elections by investigating correlations between social variables and the choices made: class and party identification being historically vital in the UK. More recently, choice has been positioned increasingly as a key element of policy, particularly in terms of public service delivery. However, this paper seeks to use another pervasive manifestation of choice in understanding electoral engagement. It argues that electors are comfortable consumers, thus it privileges a consumer as choice-maker frame. The idea that we face, make and value choice as witness to our autonomous status is acknowledged most readily through modern consumerism. It is largely through being consumers that we learn and experience being choice-makers, and predominantly, its meanings are galvanised in this sphere. This paper seeks to consider modern political electoral choice through such a lens. A form of longitudinal study over a period of one-month using self-completed diaries and a two stage in-depth interview with each of the participants took place. Some were prompted to consider election choices, others not. Synopsis of the narratives of some participants is included to ensure a multivocal flavour. Emergent themes indicate that meanings associated with choice in both consumption and political spheres are both highly compartmentalised and individualised. However, with far less scope to recast political meaning, it affords limited appeal to our sense of agency. A sharp sense of being free agents, embellished in our consumer culture, subtlety embraces and shapes our notions of choice through citizenship.

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