Power and narrative in day-to-day consuming
In this dissertation I address the question, how does power operate in day-today consuming in a consumer society? My theoretical framework has two bases. One base is Foucault's theories of power, including but not limited to his work on normalization, surveillance, examination, confession, and identity. The other base is narrative theory, including the relevance of narratives to personal and social identities, the role of narratives in creating social order, the impact of narratives on such things as the organization of space and time, and the effect of narratives in creating coherence and directionality across operants of power. I suggest that many of the mechanisms of power identified by Foucault have unmistakable narrative features, and that by combining narrative and Foucauldian perspectives a more comprehensive understanding of the operation of power in day-to-day life is attainable. I apply my theoretical framework to data collected using autoethnographic methods. Specifically, I spent one year keeping a detailed journal of my and my family's experiences relating in the broadest sense to consuming. During this period we lived in a middle-sized Canadian city. To heighten my awareness of the taken-for-granted aspects of power and consuming we alternated lifestyles each month, living months 1,3,5,7,9, and 11 as conventional Canadian consumers, and months 2,4,6,8,10, and 12 as committed environmentally-mindful consumers. In addition, I conducted - interviews of small samples of conventional and environmentally-committed consumers; I undertook a content analysis of print advertising delivered to our house; and I conducted background research on various issues relating to consumerism. My research indicates that Foucauldian operants of power are used extensively to support consuming, and that; in addition, many narrative structures are also employed as operants of power, including charms and stories. These operants of power are aligned with one another to form coherent patterns through the effects of metanarratives. I argue that, despite claims by Lyotard (1984) and others, modern consumer societies are highly narrative, and have defining metanarratives. In addition, environmentally-based opposition to the dominant metanarrative of consuming has a metanarrative of its own, but is distinctly lacking in operants of power.