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When consumer citizens spoke up: west Germany’s early dealings with plastic waste


Westermann, Andrea (2013). When consumer citizens spoke up: west Germany’s early dealings with plastic waste. Contemporary European History, 22(3):477-498.

Abstract

At one time, plastics were claimed to be the material that would not only boost West Germany's economy but also its consumer democracy. However, in the 1970s plastics were redefined as an environmental and consumer hazard. Based on protest letters and other sources, this article explores why plastic came to be redefined and traces how it became an issue of public concern. Now, this iconic material had become symbolic once more, but for negative reasons. I argue that the issue of plastics gained considerable momentum due to their crucial role in creating modern mass consumption. I further argue that the shifting significance of plastics highlights a substantial change in West Germany's political culture. While the early social market economists based citizens’ social belonging around access to economic security and affluence rather than overtly political notions of participation, people started insisting on the political aspects of their group identity as consumers; they defined both consumer information and protection as rights of citizenship.

Abstract

At one time, plastics were claimed to be the material that would not only boost West Germany's economy but also its consumer democracy. However, in the 1970s plastics were redefined as an environmental and consumer hazard. Based on protest letters and other sources, this article explores why plastic came to be redefined and traces how it became an issue of public concern. Now, this iconic material had become symbolic once more, but for negative reasons. I argue that the issue of plastics gained considerable momentum due to their crucial role in creating modern mass consumption. I further argue that the shifting significance of plastics highlights a substantial change in West Germany's political culture. While the early social market economists based citizens’ social belonging around access to economic security and affluence rather than overtly political notions of participation, people started insisting on the political aspects of their group identity as consumers; they defined both consumer information and protection as rights of citizenship.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of History
Dewey Decimal Classification:900 History
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:29 Apr 2016 17:39
Last Modified:21 Nov 2017 18:29
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:0960-7773
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1017/S0960777313000246
Official URL:http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayIssue?decade=2010&jid=CEH&volumeId=22&issueId=03&iid=8948323
Related URLs:http://www.recherche-portal.ch/ZAD:default_scope:ebi01_prod001729155

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