Consuming Choices: Ethics in a Global Consumer Age

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Overview

Being a consumer is now integral to the human experience, something none of us can avoid. At the same time, many of the products that we buy come to us with histories steeped in highly unethical practices, such as worker exploitation, animal suffering, and environmental damage. Consuming Choices considers the ethical dimensions of consumer life by exploring several basic questions: Exactly what sort of unethical practices are implicated in today's consumer products? Does moral culpability for these practices fall solely on the companies that perform them, or does it also fall upon consumers who purchase the products made with such practices? And most important, do consumers ever have moral obligations to avoid particular products? To answer, David T. Schwartz provides the most detailed philosophical exploration on consumer ethics to date. He uses historical and fictional examples to illustrate the types of wrongdoing currently implicated by consumer products in this age of globalization, offers a clear description of the relevant moral theories and important ethical concepts, and provides concrete suggestions on how to be a more ethical consumer.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
What are the moral obligations attaching to consumers? Since everyone is a consumer, Schwartz (Randolph College) claims, this is a question of universal significance. The author clearly traces the difficulties of applying consequentialist moral theory to actions where a single consumer seems ultimately invisible to market and production systems or easily hides behind the screen of anonymity—'If I didn't buy it (or do it) someone else would.' Although most of the book treats issues related to consequentialist moral theory, Schwartz's main argument is for moral complicity by all who engage in consumer activity. This draws on deontological ground, and the author adopts Christopher Kutz's notion that 'participants in a collective harm are accountable for the victim's suffering not because of the individual differences they make, but because their intentional participation in a collective endeavor directly links them to the consequences of that endeavor.' Schwartz's use of a broad set of examples, including the Dresden fire bombing, coco production using child slaves, and the dramatic increase in CEO pay, makes this book powerful and current. Summing Up: Highly recommended.
Environmental Ethics
David Schwartz examines in this book both the 'unethical practices' hidden behind the cornucopia of commodities on offer in our consumerist societies and wether consumers share with companies some of the moral culpability for these practices. The book does a . . . good job.
Peter Singer
The signature ethical problem of the global consumer society is our responsibility for the unethical practices that lie behind the products we buy. David T. Schwartz probes this problem with well-chosen examples and clear ethical arguments Consuming Choices is a book for teachers to discuss with their students and from which activists and consumers will also learn.
James Sterba
I know of no other work that has ethically examined the topic of consumer choice in such detail. Schwartz's work can serve nicely as a supplement for a business ethics, political philosophy, or moral problems course.
CHOICE
What are the moral obligations attaching to consumers? Since everyone is a consumer, Schwartz (Randolph College) claims, this is a question of universal significance. The author clearly traces the difficulties of applying consequentialist moral theory to actions where a single consumer seems ultimately invisible to market and production systems or easily hides behind the screen of anonymity—'If I didn't buy it (or do it) someone else would.' Although most of the book treats issues related to consequentialist moral theory, Schwartz's main argument is for moral complicity by all who engage in consumer activity. This draws on deontological ground, and the author adopts Christopher Kutz's notion that 'participants in a collective harm are accountable for the victim's suffering not because of the individual differences they make, but because their intentional participation in a collective endeavor directly links them to the consequences of that endeavor.' Schwartz's use of a broad set of examples, including the Dresden fire bombing, coco production using child slaves, and the dramatic increase in CEO pay, makes this book powerful and current. Summing Up: Highly recommended.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742548145
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/16/2010
  • Series: Philosophy and the Global Context Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 148
  • Product dimensions: 6.09 (w) x 9.08 (h) x 0.42 (d)

Meet the Author

David T. Schwartz is professor of philosophy at Randolph College.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii

1 Ethical Consumerism 1

2 Caveat Emptor? 21

3 The Consumer as Causal Agent 47

4 The Consumer as Complicit Participant 69

5 Toward a Practical Consumer Ethic 85

Notes 115

Bibliography 125

Index 131

About the Author 139

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