Alternative Hedonism: Exploring the Role of Pleasure in Moral Markets

Robert Caruana, Sarah Glozer, Giana Eckhardt

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14 Citations (SciVal)


‘Fair trade’, ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ consumption emerged in response to rising concerns about the destructive effects of hedonic models of consumption that are typical of late capitalist societies. Advocates of these ‘markets for virtue’ sought to supplant the insatiable hedonic impulse with a morally restrained, self-disciplining disposition to consumption. With moral markets currently losing their appeal, we respond to the tendency to view hedonism as an inhibitor of moral market behaviour, and view it instead as a potential enabler. Drawing upon the concept of ‘alternative hedonism’ (Soper, J Consum Cult 7:205–229, 2007; Cult Stud 22(5):567–587, 2008; Ethics and morality in consumption: interdisciplinary perspectives, Routledge, London, 2016; A new hedonism: a post-consumerism vision, the next system project, 2017), we illustrate how consumers experience both morality and pleasure concurrently; show how they attempt to reconcile these aspects of the experience and elucidate the implications of doing so. Using the moral market for ethical tourism as an exemplar of ‘alternative hedonism’, we identify three ‘self-managing strategies’—moderating, abiding and levelling—that re-structure the moral order of consumption in meaningful ways and with profound outcomes. In the context of anxieties about personal, social and ecological consequences of consumption, we show empirically how self-managing strategies reify a less contradictory framing of consumption by tapping into alternative cultural discourses on morality. We discuss the consequences of these strategies, highlighting how they may legitimise and sustain consumption via moral markets despite the reproduction of social inequality and ecological threats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-158
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Early online date27 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2020


  • Alternative hedonism
  • Ethical consumption
  • Moral markets
  • Tourism
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Law


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