Youth Uses of Actor-Network Theory for Undermining Societal Consumerism

Part of the Cultural Studies of Science Education book series (CSSE, volume 16)


School science and fields of professional science and technology appear to be cooperatively-enmeshed in a global economic system prioritizing enrichment of few capitalists while compromising wellbeing of many individuals, societies and environments. Governments and extra-national entities like the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development promote strategic (non-)intervention in markets aimed at maximizing private profit, partly facilitated by externalization of personal, social and environmental costs. A major mechanism of this system appears to be creation of elastic and enthusiastic consumer desires – particularly among the minority with few needs and who may repeatedly ignore problems associated with commodities. School science (including through Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics education) appears to be contributing to such consumerism. Fields of science are, for example, portrayed as overly systematic, efficient, unbiased – and unproblematic regarding harms to individuals, societies and environments. Learners also may become alienated from opportunities to self-determine perspectives and practices important to them and their communities. Drawing, in part, from liberatory pedagogy, this chapter features the case of a radical science teacher whose uses of actor-network theory to promote student-led research-informed and negotiated actions to address critical socio-scientific problems seem to counter tendencies towards consumerism and associated potential personal, social and environmental harms.


Socioscientific issues Neoliberalism Consumerism Student-directedness Activism 



An earlier version of this article was published in the Brazilian Journal of Research in Science Education (volume 14, issue 2, pages 39–56). We are grateful for permission from the editors of the BJRSE for use of this article here. Research for the project reported here was funded by a generous grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Canada) – support that is greatly appreciated.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of Education and Arts, Australian Catholic UniversityEast MelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Peel District School BoardMississaugaCanada

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