Consumer Boycotts in Modern History: States, Moral Boundaries, and Political Action

  • Frank TrentmannEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Critical Studies of Antisemitism and Racism book series (PCSAR)


The increase in boycotts since the 1980s is often heralded as a sign of a new moral economy and civil society. This chapter, by contrast, highlights the importance of the state. It places boycotts in the context of state power in the modern world. It shows how the turn to boycotts in the years around 1900 was an anti-colonial weapon in the vacuum of state sovereignty, how the state became a target for social reformers, and how states mobilised consumers directly for war and empire. The shift to “caring at a distance” since the 1950s and the declining interest in conditions at home is related to the rise of the welfare state. Rather than ushering in a new kind of politics, consumer activists operate in the shadow of the state.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Birkbeck College, University of LondonLondonUK

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