My research often explores activist responses to ongoing social problems. During my Visiting Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the IES I have worked on a monograph on women’s role in consumer activism in the UK and USA between 1885 and 1920. These initiatives, part of campaigns against labour exploitation, encouraged particularly women to pay fair prices for goods so that workers – again, particularly women – could receive fair wages.

Nowadays many of us consider the impact of our purchases on the environment, workers, and local and independent businesses. The pandemic has thrown this into sharp relief as we are called on to support businesses struggling with closures.

An issue I come across repeatedly, however, is that consumer activism rarely takes into account those people who cannot easily pay more for ethical goods. Many – including large numbers of early career academics – are themselves struggling as a result of the pandemic. Many of those who may most want to support bookshops, museums, performance venues, may themselves in fact rely on these institutions for work and wages. It has been striking to see these challenges for consumer activism as a movement play out in the midst of the overarching challenges of the current crisis.

Flore Janssen is a Postdoctoral Visiting Research Fellow at the IES