Transformative Topics

In recognition of the upcoming International Justice Day on July 17th, we feature a paper led by Linda Scott and Jerome Williams, which emerged from the second Transformative Consumer Research conference in 2009 and was published in JPPM in 2011. Titled “Beyond Poverty: Social Justice in a Global Marketplace” their paper considers social justice, consumer behavior, discrimination and distributive justice.


Below Stacey Menzel Baker one of the co-authors reflects on the development of the papers.


This paper emerged from the 2009 Transformative Consumer Research (TCR) Conference held at Villanova University. This conference was the first dialogical conference for TCR, so we were participating in an experiment on how big ideas could emerge from social interaction around a focal topic. Our group, led by Linda Scott and Jerome Williams, grappled with unique ways in which marketing and consumer researchers could contribute to the conversation on poverty, as typically manifested in insufficient resources and income. We agreed that traditional models for addressing social injustice in the global marketplace failed to consider a broader notion of a consumption culture. For instance, poverty includes, but goes beyond, economic measures and material scarcity. To that end, we developed a list of qualities of a consumption basket designed to maximize human potential. That consumption basket included what we termed the 6 Ss: subsistence, safety, sound health, sociality, sovereignty, and spirituality.


We initially thought that our primary contribution would be in expanding our view of the consumption basket, but, over time, we realized how current programmatic responses (e.g., CSR or cause-related marketing) and theoretical agendas (social justice as developed by Rawls) needed be examined as well.  To that end, we offered a three-pronged approach (framework) for addressing social injustice in the marketplace that includes (1) a consumption basket to maximize human potential, (2) programmatic responses, and (3) an expanded theoretical agenda. Thus, our approach moves beyond simple poverty (as insufficient income or materiality) to include the sometimes oppressive roles of gender, race, religion, and some business practices and public policies. 


Citation: Linda Scott, Jerome D Williams, Stacey Menzel Baker, Jan Brace-Govan, Hilary Downey, Anne-Marie Hakstian, Geraldine Rosa Henderson, Peggy Sue Loroz, and Dave Webb (2011). Beyond Poverty: Social Justice in a Global Marketplace. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 30(1), 39-46.  



The social justice paradigm, developed in philosophy by John Rawls and others, reaches limits when confronted with diverse populations, unsound governments, and global markets. Its parameters are further limited by a traditional utilitarian approach to both industrial actors and consumer behaviors. Finally, by focusing too exclusively on poverty, as manifested in insufficient incomes or resources, the paradigm overlooks the oppressive role that gender, race, and religious prejudice play in keeping the poor subordinated. The authors suggest three ways in which marketing researchers could bring their unique expertise to the question of social justice in a global economy: by (1) reinventing the theoretical foundation laid down by thinkers such as Rawls, (2) documenting and evaluating emergent 'feasible fixes' to achieve justice (e.g., the global resource dividend, cause-related marketing, Fair Trade, philanthrocapitalism), and (3) exploring the parameters of the consumption basket that would be minimally required to achieve human capabilities.


More information on the paper can be found here



Search for other papers about Social Justice research here.


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