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The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies by J. Michael Ryan, Daniel Thomas Cook

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Consumer Movements, Contemporary

WENDY A. WIEDENHOFT-MURPHY

John Carroll University, USA

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs249

Although consumer activism has a long and significant history in the United States from the boycotts of British goods leading up to the American Revolution to the union label and white label buycotts of the American Federation of Labor and the National Consumers' League during the Progressive era, the Great Depression marks the birth of the contemporary consumer movement (Glickman 2009; Hilton 2007; Sorenson 1941). It was during the late 1920s that scientific experts began using the tactic of testing products to ensure their safety for consumers and established two consumer organizations in the United States, Consumers' Research and Consumers Union, the latter of which remains central to the consumer movement today. Unlike the focus of earlier forms of consumer activism, which tended to stress how the purchasing decisions of consumers affected the wages or working conditions of laborers, the contemporary consumer movement positions the interests of the consumer as its predominant concern. These consumer interests include objective product information regarding quality, standards, and price. A diverse constituency, independence from business and political parties, a decentralized organizational structure, and single-issue campaigns are some of the reasons why the consumer movement has survived for almost a century. While product testing may be the foundation ...

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