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School of Business | Department of Marketing | Marketing | 2015
Thesis number: 14024
Medicalization of the consumer
Author: Suuronen, Lotta
Title: Medicalization of the consumer
Year: 2015  Language: eng
Department: Department of Marketing
Academic subject: Marketing
Index terms: markkinointi; marketing; kulutus; consumption; psykologia; psychology; kuluttajakäyttäytyminen; consumer behaviour; identiteetti; identity
Pages: 76
Full text:
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Key terms: medicalization; stigmatic identity work; identity; discourse; consumer culture theory; consumer research; discourse analysis
Medicalization is a process in which problems that were previously considered to belong to normal human life are defined and treated as medical problems. Thus, the aim of this study is to understand how consumers by engaging in stigmatic identity work draw from the discourses of the Finnish burnout marketplace in an attempt to come up with a more satisfactory sense of the self. In particular the focus is on how consumers negotiate a socially challenging stigma of burned out. Previous research on medicalization has adopted the point of view of macro-marketing, leaving the phenomenon disregarded within consumer research literature. The research views medicalization from a consumer research perspective focusing on the subjective human experiences and belongs under the broad umbrella of the Consumer Culture theory viewing a marketplace as a bundle of resources for the identity work of the consumers drawing from the theories of identity work, stigma management and mass-mediated marketplace ideologies.

The research is qualitative in nature belonging to the constructivist paradigm and the category of interpretive research. In order to create a subjective understanding of the researched phenomenon semi-structured thematic interviews were conducted. The interviewees were people who had suffered from work related burnout. The interview data, which was regarded as social text, was analyzed by the method of discourse analysis.

A discursive approach enables to create a subjective understanding of the highly personal issue of stigmatization and the negotiation of stigma of burned out. The consumers engaged in active and sophistically agentic efforts in trying to negotiate the stigma of burned out by seeking more preferred and aspirational versions of their selves in relation to their stigmatized and medico-administrative identities. Such sought after identities may, however be competing or antagonistic in nature. Paradoxically the consumers drew from the same dominant discourses that enable the stigmatization of burnout while trying to negotiate a more satisfying sense of the self. Due to stigmatic identity work being essentially a social process, the sought after identities may not be socially available for the consumers in the eyes of the others. These findings shed light on the previously disregarded subject of medicalization within the field of consumer research. The research contributes to the Consumer Culture theory by proposing that in an unconscious act of self-discipline consumers seek culturally sanctioned identities that enable the stigmatization of the burned out people. With that consumers themselves can sustain such discourses of power within a given marketplace that limit the alternative identities socially available to them.
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