Social representations of marketplace immorality : The case of the Kenyan illicit alcohol market

Mwangi, Virginia and Cocker, Hayley and Piacentini, Maria (2020) Social representations of marketplace immorality : The case of the Kenyan illicit alcohol market. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This thesis examines social representations of marketplace immorality in a context of contested legitimacy. In recent years, the legislative context of illicit alcohol in Kenya has changed the status of illicit alcohol from legal to illegal, then back to legal, between June 2015 and February 2016. Using social representations theory, this study explores the dominant social representations in the Kenyan illicit alcohol market during this volatile regulatory period. The study draws on longitudinal data from digital mainstream and social media news sites, as well as interview and observation data. The study seeks to expand understanding on the extent to which social representations convey morality, and the impact of social representations on people’s perceptions and practices, thereby extending knowledge and understanding of social representations and morality. Consumer research has begun to consider issues relating to morality in the marketplace, but this is still a nascent area of research. Most studies on morality have explored only a subset of moral concerns but this study expands the conceptualization of morality in a market context responding to calls from market researchers for a broader definition of consumer morality. The study focuses on plural moral domains with several moral concerns and highlights both individual-centred and other-centred moral concerns. The study also demonstrates that social representations in the alcohol market focus on the harm from illicit consumption practices leading to selective objectification of consumer and alcohol problems and limiting remedial initiatives in the marketplace. The findings also reveal that cognitive polyphasia is a pervasive feature in the social representations of the Kenyan illicit alcohol market. Key aspects of cognitive polyphasia that define some of its functionalities and how it could be operationalised are a nascent area in the study of social representations. This study’s findings contribute to the existing knowledge on cognitive polyphasia by revealing cognitive polyphasia as a means of adapting to change, coping with change, resisting change and inducing change. The study also contributes to knowledge on the delegitimization of market practices by examining the role of cognitive polyphasia in changing practices and perceptions. The study findings also illustrate moral ambiguities in the marketplace as well as the psychological and socio-psychological processes used to navigate the moral ambiguities. The processes illustrated include social representation, moral exclusion, moral rationalization, moral decoupling and moral override. These processes provide insights into the reasoning and justifications behind why consumers would or would not act in an ethical or moral manner. The research further contributes to the literature on morality by highlighting the influence of emotions in moral judgement. These findings confirm previous empirical research in moral psychology on the role of emotion in moral judgement. The study proposes greater emphasis on emotional appeals in efforts to encourage moral consumer behaviour since emotions are revealed as key to moral judgement. The practical implications of this research are mainly in relation to the incorporation of community cultural language when talking about, or implementing illicit alcohol policy, to help make the policies a part of the local culture.

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
?? kenya, illicit alcohol, alcohol policy, social representations, marketplace immorality ??
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Deposited On:
29 Jan 2020 09:15
Last Modified:
26 May 2024 01:34