Making change: The role of rhetoric in the politicization of consumption
AuthorPearce, Lonni Dee
KeywordsLanguage, Rhetoric and Composition.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractWorking Assets, a long-distance phone service company, often markets its services by telling customers that buying the company's products/services will contribute to social progress ("Help save rainforests, defend reproductive freedom and house the homeless while you save money on long distance calls"). This claim is based on the company's philanthropic and political practices, such as donating 1% of its long distance revenue to "progressive" nonprofit organizations, and alerting customers to current political, environmental, and social issues in its monthly mailings and through email. Working Assets' rhetorical representations of itself, its customers, and the act of consumption epitomize one moment in a dialectical process that is redefining economic, social, and political boundaries in the contemporary U.S. In this project, I term this process the "politicization of consumption" and define it as rhetorical practices that represent consumption as an exercise of social or political power. This project analyzes Working Assets' marketing rhetoric, as well as other samples of marketing texts that merge consumption with citizenship, for internal and external tensions that demonstrate ways that the politicization of consumption influences and is influenced by U.S. post-Fordist capitalism. Analyzing a variety of texts using Marxist dialectical inquiry as a theoretical framework and the concept of post-Fordism as a historical framework reveals the role of rhetoric in social and cultural production and reproduction and, more specifically, in redefining notions of "consumption" and "citizenship" in the contemporary U.S. This project concludes that, while the rhetoric of Working Assets and other companies that market "civic consumption" largely support capitalist structures, this rhetoric also cracks open the always already political nature of consumption, offering critical scholars opportunities for exposing the contradictions of capitalism.
Degree ProgramGraduate College