When the private becomes public: Commodity activism, endorsement, and making meaning in a privatised world

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The divide between the public realm and the private realm is a both a moveable and permeable boundary. One of the reasons for this fluidity as to what constitutes these two realms is driven by different political postures. From a neoliberal position, the private-be that private industry, the individual self, the engines of the economy-is better able to produce the Benthamite characterisation of happiness for the greatest number. In contrast, from a socialist to social democratic position, an expanded public disbursement of commonwealth is seen to produce a more equitable, just, and ultimately happy society. Somewhere between these two extremes is a regulated marketplace which more or less describes the organisation of most Western polities. This paper investigates a relatively new form of public activism that, in a sense, emerges from a cultural condition of the ascendancy of the privatisation of politics and culture. Commodity activism, as it is now called by researchers, begins with a politics of the marketplace and turns it into a normative position or posture related to the public sphere. This kind of politics has emerged from consumer movements that have a long history of turning the private into the domain of the public through boycotts, forms of usually negative publicity, and an active engagement of appropriating the key identity of “privatisation," which is that of the consumer, and re-politicising it into something akin to a form of active citizen. The paper is a study of this changing of the private into the public and how this process relies on the concept of endorsement-particularly high-profile celebrity figures who have gained their power as individuals in this privatised space and now use that form of power for other purposes-in order to gain attention and circulation in this now privatised public sphere.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContemporary publics
Subtitle of host publicationShifting boundaries in new media, technology and culture
EditorsP David Marshall, Glenn D'Cruz, Sharyn McDonald, Katja Lee
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781137533241
ISBN (Print)9781137533234
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2016


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