Guilt and ethical choice in consumption: A psychoanalytic perspective

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Research into consumer ethics has grown substantially since the 1990s. However, it is predominantly influenced by socio-cognitive and attitudinal models that treat everyday consumer decisions as the outcome of carefully weighting abstract moral principles against utilitarian outcomes. This article counter-proposes a psychoanalytic approach to consumer guilt and moral choice that draws on Freudian and Kleinian contributions. In particular, conceptualisations of unconscious (rather than conscious) guilt, the notion of guilt being the cause rather than outcome of moral behaviour, and the distinction between persecutory and reparative anxieties. In doing so, it corroborates a view of everyday morality as less rational, less deliberate and firmly embedded in psychodynamic processes that largely escape individual awareness. Potential implications and avenues for more psychoanalytically inspired treatments of consumer ethics are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-93
Number of pages15
JournalMarketing Theory
Issue number1
Early online date24 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015

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