This paper addresses the increasing importance of the ‘consumer society’ paradigm in the shaping of economic policy and legislation, explores its foundational ideas and disputes, and introduces seven critiques that have surfaced with new currency among scholars and civil society in the wake of the ongoing financial crisis.  The developments and critiques surrounding the consumer-based model of governance intimate a much broader story of shifting economic thought and socio-political contestation around the globe.  This paper seeks both to capture the larger story and harness its complexity to a specific set of dynamics by using the European Union as a case in point.  In the face of a growing feeling of impending crisis within domestic and international governance, the question confronted in this paper is three-fold.  First, what are the salient ideas and disputes developed within the consumer model and how have these traits shaped the contemporary economic landscape? Second, beyond any ‘empirical’ circumstances, what are the specific intellectual and ethical challenges to the consumer model today?  And third, through this study of developments and challenges to the consumer model, what sort of new approaches and understandings might be formulated to address the increasing distress within the economy and civil society of Western Europe and the United States, if not more broadly, global populations?

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