The Project

Political consumerism in Switzerland: Linking food consumption, conceptions of citizenship, and political engagements



Political consumerism in Switzerland is a four years research project (2018-2021) funded by the Ambizione program of the Swiss National Fund. The project analyzes food consumption in relation to citizens’ conceptions of citizenship and democracy, as well as the role of civil society organizations in shaping food consumption practices. The goal is to study political consumerism as a form of everyday political behavior related to both individual and collective political engagements.

A growing number of citizens make ethical, social, or environmental choices when they buy fair trade, organic, or local products. Although political sociologists studied these consumption choices as political acts, they correspond to a much-debated form of political participation. Some contend that consumption cannot be a political act for it refers to individual practices, with no clear goals related to societal transformations, and with no specific understandings of political problems. Furthermore, some fear that political consumerism might crowd out other forms of participation. Or even foster individual responsibility at the expense of the state regulatory power. Yet, in times of growing political disenchantment, this form of political action is critical. Scientific knowledge about this alternative form of political engagement and its relationship to other forms of political participation are needed. In this project, we propose to study the political underpinnings of individuals’ food consumption choices and their links to collective political engagements. Understanding political consumerism as an everyday form of political participation allows identifying and establishing potential means for reinforcing and expanding citizens’ relation to politics.

The project is divided into two parts, the first deals with citizens’ actions and their understanding of political consumerism. In this part of the project, we analyze individual behaviors – food consumption choices and their relationship to politics. While the second part studies the role of civil society organizations in producing discourses about political consumerism and shaping citizens’ engagements. In this second part of the project, we map civil society organizations active in the food sector and we analyze which kind of food consumption they foster.

To learn more about the project, read the project description.