University of Limerick
Hipp_and_JaegerErben_2021_Homo_economicus_or_homo_cooperitivus.pdf (298.54 kB)

Homo economicus or homo cooperativus? Images of the (unsustainable) consumers

Download (298.54 kB)
conference contribution
posted on 2021-06-15, 11:06 authored by Tamina Hipp, Melanie Jaeger-Erben
Research on the lifetime of electronics has so far hardly investigated the role and influence of “third-party” stakeholders like NGOs, political agencies, consumer rights associations and lobby groups on the public discourses and expectations regarding lifetimes. These stakeholders do often lobby for particular goals like preserving consumer rights or fostering eco-efficiency and sufficiency. They influence for example political decisions making concerning lifetime regulation or consumers self-perception. We first conducted eleven problem-centered interviews with representatives of different organizations and associations in Germany. In a second phase, we compared their perspectives with the results from problem-centered interviews with users of electronics. The results show that many third-party stakeholders tend to underestimate the complexity of everyday life, and reduce user practices to rational information-processing and decision-making (following a homo economicus model) as well as to status seeking. In contrast, the user interviews revealed that the use of products is part of everyday life routines. The users primarily expect that their devices work properly, and they do not want to spend too much time and energy seeking for information. We found in the interviews that users often "outsource" decisions about which device to use or whether a repair is worth it, by asking relatives or friends for help. While third-party stakeholders understand the social dimension of using technology primarily as a matter of social distinction, comparison and competition, we found that social cooperation and reciprocity is far more important for usage practices. Thus, we argue for a new perspective in the promotion of product longevity which recognizes and strengthens the “homo cooperativus” instead of the homo economicus.



4th PLATE 2021 Virtual Conference, 26-28 May 2021;



Other Funding information

German Federal Ministry of Education and Research



Usage metrics

    University of Limerick


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager