The Social Dynamics and Durability of Moral Boundaries

Sociological Forum, Vol. 24, No. 4, Pg. 854 - 876.

Keith R. Brown

Moral boundaries are often conceptualized as an expression of an individual's identity or belief system. However, social forces greatly influence how and when consumers activate moral boundaries. Utilizing a dramaturgical perspective, this article shows that the activation of moral boundaries is largely determined by an individual's position in the market (role), the discourse he or she is expected to perform (scripts), and the individuals with whom he or she is interacting (audience). This article makes four contributions to our understanding of ethical consumption and boundary theory: (1) it provides a counterbalance to theories that imply moral boundaries are an expression of an individual's belief system; (2) it demonstrates the permeability of moral boundaries; (3) it shows that strong moral boundaries can, but rarely do, lead to the formation of social boundaries; and (4) it reinforces the notion that boundary research needs to include naturalistic data looking at how people activate boundaries in their everyday lives. These findings are based on participant observation and interviews with 102 consumers, activists, store owners, and managers of Fair Trade coffee and handicraft retail stores.

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(Something interesting I found)Posted: Friday, January 15, 2010 by nick stock
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