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Chapter 18. Conclusion: Arguments, responsibility and what is to be done about marketisation

Book-Cover-marketizationRichard Scullion, Mike Molesworth and Lizzie Nixon

We could, with justification, conclude this edited collection by pulling the various themes together to illustrate the complexity of the investigation of market-orientation in higher education (HE). We could then simply point out the many contradictions apparent when reading the contributions and then leave them to ‘hang in the air’ by drawing the attention of the reader to the inevitable tensions that arise when asking the types of questions this book does. However we want to try to move beyond a concluding statement that merely re-states that the Higher Education sector – with its multitude of stakeholders and missions – is bound to have conflicting expectations placed on it, including in terms of how students should be perceived.

The machinations of managing contingency

I’ll start with the voices of other people…. Here, somebody is recalling a recent visit to a local restaurant:
…And yes, only last week we were somewhere local, a newish Arabian is it, I’m not sure, no, Moroccan in Charminster, not sure if you know it. I was reading the menu and just had no idea really, I liked so much of it, and to be honest, didn’t have a clue what some of it was, Marcus would know, he knows what I like food-wise. And our two friends had already decided and the waiter was hanging around, and I was saying to Marcus, oh I just don’t know, what do you think, and he said ‘Well I know you like that and we can’t really make that at home…it’s hard to make get the ingredients and all that’, so in the end that helped and that decided for me what I’d go for. He’s good at that, I like that Marcus can always come up with a reason for me to decide.

Making it easy to resist: How being a consumerist choice-maker marginalises our capacity as political agents. Dr Richard Scullion, Media School, Bournemouth University


The chapter is premised on the view that we live in and through a largely consumerist ideology where the mediated landscape perpetuates and legitimises this through various ideological apparatus. My central argument is that our contemporary consumer culture is sufficiently full of meaning that it leaves little space for salience to be attached to the political sphere. I take a Audemars Piguet Replica Watches holistic perspective of contemporary British culture that positions individuals as consumer-citizens. I draw from interpretations of a large phenomenological study carried out that generated accounts of both consumer and political choice experiences. I outline three macro-contextual strands that form the conceptual basis of my central argument, these are, concerns about political (electoral) engagement, the marketisation of politics, and the apparent dominance of a consumer choice-orientation being used when making political decisions. These strands serve to articulate the central issue to which this chapter makes a contribution: to better understand the impact of a culture where the dominant discourse is consumerist, on the nature of political participation and engagement. I do this by focusing on a fundamental elements of consumerism; choice. A key interpretation is that the political arena is consistently perceived as an agency-poor context compared to the consumer sphere. Flowing from this six main discourses emerge of the participants’ accounts of their choice experiences, these are: as a way of creating and sustaining self-identity, as a demonstration of moral status, as a form of personal rationality, as a means of gaining pleasure, as a way of managing contingency, and finally, as a way of creating and sustaining routines. I illustrate how individuals afford meanings to their political choice experiences based on these dominant discourses serving to marginalise this sphere in their everyday lives. This exacerbates the distancing of politics, and further diminishes its salience, reinforcing the opinion that consumer choice practices serve as a conservative force in the participants’ lives by generating a sense of permanence about their current everyday lives.


Faculty of Media & Communication, Bournemouth University