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The Troubling Equivalence of Citizen and Consumer

Michael Schudson
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Vol. 608, Politics, Social Networks, and the History of Mass Communications Research: Rereading Personal Influence (Nov., 2006), pp. 193-204
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25097861
Page Count: 12
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Troubling Equivalence of Citizen and Consumer
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Abstract

As Todd Gitlin observed in his 1978 critique of Personal Influence, Elihu Katz and Paul Lazarsfeld (1955) in that work treated consumer choices and political choices at the voting booth as methodologically equivalent. Many critics since have identified this purported equivalence as a flaw in American social science that reduces politics to consumer behavior. But is it a flaw? This article contends that consumer choices can be and have often been political; that political choices can be and often have been consumer-like; and that the distinction between citizen and consumer, intended to uphold the superiority of the citizen's role, in fact may itself be damaging to public life. It calls for a reconsideration of what the differences between the worlds of politics and consumption really are.

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