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Christianity and Sustainable Consumption: A Social Psychological Investigation.

Pepper, Miriam. (2007) Christianity and Sustainable Consumption: A Social Psychological Investigation. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey (United Kingdom)..

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Abstract

Evidence increasingly indicates that consumerism is deeply problematic. It exerts excessive pressure on the natural world, is characterised by social inequalities and injustices, and may even undermine the well-being of its participants. Shifts in consumption patterns are therefore required. Religious traditions may possess substantial, if unrealised, resources to counter the problems of consumerism. This thesis presents three studies which investigate the ways in which Christianity may or may not facilitate sustainable living (specifically, ecologically conscious, socially conscious and frugal consumer behaviours) on the part of its adherents. An initial discussion groups study framed the investigation of consumer behaviour within churchgoers’ discourses and narratives. Resources that might be brought to bear in fostering sustainable living were identified, such as environmental stewardship, justice for the marginalised, fulfilment through vocation and a relationship with God, as well as community support. Complex moral discussions about what addressing poverty and guarding against idolatry requires of Christians in terms of their consumption practices were also observed. In the second discussion groups study, Bible texts facilitated a more detailed examination of these latter themes. While addressing poverty and guarding against idolatry had implications for churchgoers’ consumption and earning choices, the Bible texts were understood primarily in an individualistic framework that does little to structurally address the ecological and social justice issues associated with consumerism. In the third study, a questionnaire survey of churchgoers and the general public which used value and discrepancy theories, the influence of Christianity on frugal and (especially) socially conscious consumer behaviours was found to be positive but small. In contrast, the religion variables related more strongly to values, and some relationships tentatively suggest a shift among churchgoers away from conservative values in the era of post-Christendom. Socially conscious consumer behaviour was found to be an expression of altruism that is compatible with rising consumption. In contrast, frugality is primarily about income constraints and low personal materialistic values, rather than about altruism. As such, frugality has not been widely adopted as a fully developed moral challenge to consumerism. Overall, the findings suggest that churches’ potential contributions to sustainable living remain largely unrealised. Collective efforts that integrate Christian values, narratives, symbols and practices in ways that counter the problems of consumerism and provide alternatives at the local level may provide a way forward. Research on Christian and other networks and communities which are already mobilised in this regard is therefore warranted, as is action research that would attempt to move other communities onto such a path.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors : Pepper, Miriam.
Date : 2007
Additional Information : Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Surrey (United Kingdom), 2007.
Depositing User : EPrints Services
Date Deposited : 06 May 2020 14:23
Last Modified : 06 May 2020 14:33
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/856240

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