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American Ethnologist

Building sustainable societies: A Swedish case study on the limits of reflexive modernization



Environmental problems have inspired a wide range of responses from citizens and states alike. My research focuses on Swedish individuals’ attempts to minimize perceived environmental risks via consumption practice. The growth of “sustainable consumerism” is often explained by generalized theories of reflexive modernization, but the Swedish case illustrates that many citizen-consumers acting in the interest of sustainability are misunderstood by these popular explanations. Their perspectives and actions support the need for a more historically and locally grounded approach to sustainable consumerism in Sweden and elsewhere, one that not only recognizes individual choice but also takes into account considerations of power and history.

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