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An Explorative Study of Virtues in Ethical Consumption from a Confucian Perspective in an Urban-Rural-Fringe in China

Journal: Business Ethics and Leadership (BEL) (Vol.4, No. 4)

Publication Date:

Authors : ; ;

Page : 105-122

Keywords : Virtues; The Concept of Ethical Consumption; Ethical Theories and Philosophies; Chinese Consumers; Confucian Virtue Ethics;

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The concept of ethical consumption has garnered considerable attention in recent years. Yet, it remains somewhat ‘mystical' in the existing Western literature. The present unique cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary study offers clarification on the conception of ethical consumption from three aspects: First, this paper reflects on the nature of the concept of ethical consumption and identifies its relatively large common core as an open-textured, ‘naturalistic' concept; conceptualizing the ideal of ethical consumption in virtue ethical language. Second, this paper secures a firmer grounding for the concept of ‘ethical consumption' within virtue ethics by linking it theoretically to a Confucian form of virtue ethics. We support this interpretation with empirical evidence, gleaned through focus-group discussions and individual interviews with consumers, undergoing fast-changing dynamics, from an urban-rural fringe from China: a culture already immersed in lay virtue ethical thinking, inspired by Confucius. Third, the paper brings the data back to theory by eliciting from the data a structural framework of the foci of the underlying virtues making up the virtue of ethical consumption, on our respondents' understanding, and reflecting upon how this new theoretical understanding may advance the academic discourse on ethical consumption and expand the understandings of ethical consumption from a cross-cultural perspective. We explore notions such as virtue patriotism and filial piety that contribute to the diversity of the conception of ethical consumption. We explain how those virtues play a role in Chinese understandings of ethical consumption, contributing to the global diversity of the concept. This study does not claim to represent the complete truth about Chinese consumers' views on ethical consumption, considering the geographic constraints and the small number of participants. However, it does offer some salient insights into Chinese consumers' understanding of ethical consumption, which is grounded in their daily practices and reflects their consumer motivations; hence, enriching the global business ethics discourse on ethical consumption.

Last modified: 2021-01-21 06:16:25