Johan Wejryd defends his thesis 23 November

2018-11-09

Johan Wejryd defends his thesis On consumed democracy: The Expansion of consumer choice and its implications for political engagement and democracy on 23 November at 13:15 in Brusewitzsalen, Östra Ågatan 19.

Johan Wejryd

The external reviewer is Johan Martinsson, Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg.

The members of the examining committee are Professor Sven Oskarsson, Department of Government, Uppsala University, Professor Michele Micheletti, Department of Political Science, Stockholm University and Associate Professor Magnus Öberg, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University.

On consumed democracy: The Expansion of consumer choice and its implications for political engagement and democracy

This is a thesis about expansions of consumer choice, their causal effects on political engagement, and the democratic implications that follow. For material and ideological reasons alike, consumer choices have expanded over the last decades and are likely to become even more present in citizens’ lives in the future. Scholars’ appraisal of this expansion of consumer choice ranges from, on the one hand, seeing it as a threat to active citizenship to, on the other hand, celebrating it as inherently democratic.

The thesis accepts the assumed democratic potential of consumer choice as a means for conveying legitimate political preferences and affecting political outcomes. Yet the introduction shows that, from the perspective of normative democratic theory, citizens’ consumer choices are under most circumstances democratically inferior to civic engagement that addresses formal political decision-making. It is thus a pressing question whether there actually are elements in consumer choices that reduce citizens’ inclination to engage in conventional forms of political participation. This empirical question is addressed in the three essays.

The essays tap the effects of consumer choices in different contexts, such as parents’ school choices for their children (Essay I), consumer choices that interact with citizens’ political motivations, i.e. “political consumption,” (Essay II), and consumer choices regarding plainly private consumer goods (Essay III). All the three essays account for causality and do so by means of experimental designs. In addition, the essays are similar in that their results point in the same direction: expansions of consumer choice reduce citizens’ willingness to conventional political participation.

Given the democratic significance of conventional participation and the pervasiveness of consumer choice, the results are important both from a scholarly perspective and from a broader societal perspective. The results cast new light on a wide range of issues about the extension of consumer choices and their presence in citizens’ lives, including e.g. decisions about user choice in welfare services and advertising regulation. This thesis does by no means end the discussion about such policies, but demonstrates the significance of a certain outlook: issues about the extension of consumer choice are issues about democratic values.

Fulltext available on DiVA Open Access

Find out more about Johan Wejryd here

Public Defences