Consumer Activism: Is there a spiritual element? WALL STREET COMMUNITY ALTAR grew over a number of days from various pictures and keepsakes into an ever-larger installation. Photo in public domain via Wikimedia Commons.Some consumer activists are just plain angry and fed up, which motivates them to organize collective actions such as those we’ve discussed this week.
But is there an authentic spiritual element as well?

The answer depends on how you define “spirituality” and how you look for evidence of it. For example, clergy have been visibly involved in Occupy Wall Street and related Occupy events around the country. Many Occupy protesters carry personal religious artifacts. In the second month of the New York encampment, various hand-crafted altars or shrines have formed. Images of the eclectic “community altar” in the photo at right have widely circulated around the Internet. Another smaller shrine in New York features New Testament quotes about aiding the poor. Images and quotes by Gandhi figure in a number of displays.

But, aside from these fairly obvious examples, can we say that spirituality animates consumer activism in general? Is there an underlying impulse that we can document?

There may be. Consumer activists “often link social awareness to a type of spiritual awareness,” write marketing experts Robert Kozinets and Jay Handelman in the well-respected Journal of Consumer Research. Many consumer activists began with a “moment of truth”—an epiphany, if you will—when they saw the world and their connection to it in a bigger way. “By their own accounts, activists seem in these moments to leave their own small selves behind, to transcend time and space, and to attain a sense of connection with across the globe or with the planet itself.” Along the way, the targets of their consumer activism—whether a big company, a product, or even consumer culture itself—become players in a morality battle between good and evil.

Do you see elements of spirituality in consumer activism?

How do you draw connections between activism and spirituality?

Or, isn’t this a significant factor. Are people just angry?


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Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.

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