Do you care or do I have a choice? Expert authority and consumer autonomy in medicine consumption

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Abstract

Consumer research has posited an ambivalent role of choice in consumer empowerment, from liberating and including to disciplining and totalising. This article provides empirical evidence for this ambivalence and nuances how consumers navigate the liminal space between expert authority and consumer autonomy. We investigate the role of choice in consumer empowerment through an ethnographic study of medicine consumption practices in acute non-life-threatening situations in Denmark, finding these practices to be dominated by consumer choice, not only for over-the-counter but, interestingly, also for prescription-only medicine. The implications of these findings extend beyond the context of medicine consumption. First, we provide insights on the ambivalent role of choice in consumer empowerment in a complex context of mixed commercial and public agencies. Second, we demonstrate how online information access empowers consumers to resist expert authority and act autonomously. Third, we exemplify the processes by which globalisation and ideologies inform and shape consumer resistance.

Original languageEnglish
JournalConsumption, Markets & Culture
ISSN1025-3866
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3. Sep 2020

Keywords

  • Consumer empowerment
  • consumer autonomy
  • consumer choice
  • consumer resistance
  • expert authority
  • health inequality

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