New Consumer Practices in the Context of Civil Society Digitalization: Theoretical and Methodological Aspects (Paper 1)

New Consumer Practices in the Context of Civil Society Digitalization:
Theoretical and Methodological Aspects (Paper 1)

Shabanova M.A.

Dr. Sci.(Soc.), Professor, Lead Research Associate, the Center for Studies of Civil Society and the Nonprofit Sector, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia

ID of the Article: 8370

For citation:

Shabanova M.A. New Consumer Practices in the Context of Civil Society Digitalization: Theoretical and Methodological Aspects (Paper 1). Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2020. No 11. P. 16-26


Russian civil society (CS) has been repeatedly referred to as weak. However, this conclusion usually takes into account only the NGO sector while leaving out of consideration formally non-organized forms of civic participation. At the same time, the latter sphere has been expanding over the past few years, for the most part, owing to various kinds of civic engagement on consumer goods and resources. The Internet has served as a powerful impetus to their development. The author centers her attention on the new practices of consumer self- organization and peer-to- peer (P2P) cooperation within online communities, ranging from donating of excess food and things to strangers and/or receiving these from strangers to collaborative consumption of goods on the basis of a temporary access (P2P online renting of physical items and housing for those who travel, carpooling). These practices are conceptualized in the context of CS changing qualitative characteristics in the digital era. To this end,the theoretical and methodological section (Paper 1) discusses the phenomenon of consumer power enhancement in the digital era, its factors, barriers and risks. A hypothetical concept is proposed to elucidate the nature of juxtaposition between online technologies and offline CS as well as the ensuing enhancement of CS social and economic role owing to the development of online P2P consumer practices. Paper 2 deals with testing the hypotheses. Based on the results of the all-Russia representative survey (N = 2011, 2019), the paper for the first time presents the data on the actual and potential levels of Russians’ involvement in various types of P2P practices and evaluates the relationship between the probability of involvement in these practices, on one hand, and consumers’ prosocial characteristics and their online activity, on the other. It is shown that the development of online consumer practices cannot be solely attributed to Internet technologies. It is oftentimes a synthesis of Internet technologies development and extensive, though not always discernable, shifts in the non-digital environment: the development of CS, both formally organized and informal. However, the “social awakening” effect sparked by the Internet is also apparent and it cannot be viewed as an unlikely occurrence.

peer-to-peer consumer practices; Internet; civil society; collaborative consumption; sharing; social solidarity; social cooperation; social innovations


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