Market Accountability and the Consumer-Citizen
This chapter critically examines the prospect that competitive markets might serve as an alternative to democratic accountability. It identifies ways that market globalization has undermined conventional democratic accountability relations. It then outlines the basic parameters of the market accountability concept, paying particular attention to the notion of “exit” (typically opposed to “voice”). The chapter critiques arguments about the superior information-processing faculties of markets, as well as arguments about markets’ freedom-enhancing implications. Markets generate externalities and can have dislocating effects on the environment and society for which they are unable to account adequately. Due to its reliance upon unequal market power, market accountability can also reinforce relations of dominance and exploitation, while undermining democratic capabilities and political forms of agency. The chapter does, however, identify countervailing trends, including efforts to politicize market accountability through activist consumer movements. Despite their ambitions, these consumer-citizen initiatives still rely upon asymmetrical power structures of economic inequality they ultimately cannot substitute for political forms of democratic accountability.
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