Shopping for change


(to be published in Arabic for Arabi21)

Organizing to apply pressure on multinational corporations can have both positive and negative options.  For example, the standard tool of boycotts is a negative tactic, imposing profit loss through the organized refusal to patronize certain companies.  The obvious positive converse of that tactic would be organized buying.  This presents a model of reward and punishment for companies depending upon their compliance with rebel demands; and, I think, it is useful to have both tactics.

As it is now, companies try to create brand loyalty, they try to develop relationships with consumers so that people will consistently choose this company’s products over that company.  However, they do not earn this loyalty through any type of reciprocity. As I have written many times, corporations are political entities.  They participate in, indeed, dominate, policy-making. They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, millions even, to advance their political agendas.  They have the financial power to do this because of us; yet their political agendas do not reflect our interests at all.  It therefore makes sense that we should withhold our support as consumers from companies that pursue political agendas that are against our interests and which do not reflect our values.  ut, by the same token, we should offer our consumer loyalty to those companies that use their political influence to support the policies we support.

In other words, do not identify yourself as an “Apple” person, or a “Pepsi” person, or what have you, until Apple conforms to your values and Pepsi supports policies that are in your interest.  If they do this, support them as a shopper.

Political organizing should be adapted to reflect the demographic profiles of companies’ target customers.

You should be able to tell a company that their target consumer base will shun them unless they support political policies that serve the interests of that demographic; and, if the company complies, you should be able to guarantee “x” number of sales from that demographic group. Even if that means collecting donations specifically to fund a shopping spree for organized consumers, and even if you deliver customers to that company’s retail outlets on buses rented for this purpose.

It doesn’t even matter if these customers subsequently re-sell the goods afterwards.  You will have fulfilled your side of a bargain with the company in exchange for their political support

It is always good to be able to offer an opponent an “easy way”  to resolve a dispute instead of just a “hard way”.  And, the harder you make this “hard way”, the more attractive the “easy way” will be.  So yes, we still need to develop methods for imposing loss on companies, intensifying boycotts, for example, to mean more than just consumers shunning a company’s products.  It should mean that those products never reach the shelves in the first place.  It should mean, not just that their products do not sell in the market; their products should be not allowed to even enter the market.  That is how you boycott effectively; otherwise, it is very difficult to monitor compliance with a boycott.

Once you have refined the “hard” option, you will make the “easy” option much more appealing.  Once you can guarantee a company that their products absolutely will not sell if they do not comply with your demands, and you can guarantee that their products will sell if they do comply, you will have made the decision for the company very simple.

In this manner, we can take control of our power as consumers; and multinationals will have to solicit our patronage through support for political agendas that serve our interests, not just their own.



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