During the last few years around a dozen boycotts have been called in Hungary; there are several ecologically and socially aware food-communities directly linking consumers and producers; at the end of 2006 a Fair Trade shop opened in Budapest, and there are product campaigns which accentuate various patriotic themes. All of these initiatives signal the emergence of new attitudes and values, a new type of behavior, that of
. Ethical consumption, new kinds of consumer needs are influencing market culture through the creation of various market-niches (see corporate social responsibility); furthermore, the wide-scale spread of ethical consumption can even lead to the transformation of market functions. The modern market is going from a mainly economic space to an area of moral action, a tool of regulation and social participation. As a social movement ethical consumerism can effect political culture and play an important role in public policy aiming towards sustainable development. According to West-European literature as well as to concrete experience ethical consumerism is more and more playing this role, the local appearance of the movement beckons the question: what sort of values and institutions characterize this new consumer culture, and which of these can we encounter in Hungary? The first part of this study deals with the phenomena of ethical consumption: it gives an overview of the literature, explicating the main research themes, and introducing its distinctive, most often examined forms of action. In the second part of the study, out of the interpretational possibilities, I look at ethical consumption as political consumption, as a form of social governance, examining its relevance as a way of public participation. I try to find an answer to the question whether the spread of ethical consumption should be imagined at the demise of classical political institutions, or as complementary to them, and which ethical issues are most likely to mobilize the public. The study is primarily based on data describing Hungarian political participatory culture, as well as an attitude survey of a representative sample. At the end of the study I will briefly refer to the possible causes of differences in ethical consumption attitudes and behaviors.
Large retail chains have become the dominant purchasing places for Hungarian consumers. At the same time when the first large scale retail unit was opened in Hungary the first critical voices were heard on the environmental effects of hypermarkets. In the new century economic critiques have overtaken the environmental ones. In countries with longer history of retail chains and market economies the most intensive discussion is about the social effects of big box retailing. Nonetheless these social debates have had almost no effect on the Hungarian regulation of large retail chains, yet some of the problems are addressed by self-regulation. This paper consists of two parts. First it gives an overview of the critical academic literature on the effects of large retail chains on the environment, on communities and on local economies. Second it analyses how these problems are reflected in industrial self-regulation, namely in the codes of ethics of retail companies.