Austerity Ireland, the New Thrift Culture and Sustainable Consumption

  • Fiona Murphy
Keywords: Second-hand, thrift, sustainability, consumption, Ireland


In this article, I discuss whether austerity measures have an impact on individual consumers’ orientations towards sustainability. Through an ethnographic examination of second-hand markets, in particular flea markets and second-hand baby goods markets, I examine whether economic crisis has changed people’s consumption habits in Irish society. While the study of sustainability has a long, interdisciplinary history, little is known about the relationship between austerity and sustainable consumption patterns, particularly in an Irish context. Thus, this study questions whether reduced spending and consumption patterns may serve the interests of sustainability politics. 


Allen, K. and O’Boyle, B. 2013 Austerity Ireland: the failure of Irish Capitalism. London: Pluto Press.

Arnould, E.J. and Bardhi, F. 2005 ‘Thrift shopping: combining utilitarian thrift and hedonic treat benefits.’ Journal of Consumer Behaviour 4(4): 223-233

Assadourian, E. 2010 ‘Transforming cultures: from consumerism to sustainability.’ Journal of Macromarketing 30(2): 186-191.

Banbury, C. et al. 2012 ‘Sustainable consumption: introspecting across multiple lived cultures.’ Journal of Business Research 65(4): 497-503.

Barr, S. et al. 2011 ‘The policy and practice of ‘sustainable lifestyles.’ Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 54(10): 1331-1350.

Barendregt, Bart and Rivke Jaffe (eds.). 2014 Green Consumption: The Global Rise of Eco-chic. London: Bloomsbury.

Beck, U. 1992 Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. New Delhi: Sage.

Belz, F. and Peattie, K. 2009 Sustainability Marketing: A Global Perspective. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons.

Bramall, R. 2013 The Cultural Politics of Austerity: Past and Present in Austere Times. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Coulter, C. and Nagle, A. (eds). 2015 Ireland under Austerity: Neoliberal Crisis, Neoliberal Solutions. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Callan, T. et al. 2013 ‘The great recession, austerity and inequality: evidence from Ireland.’ Intereconomics 48 (6): 335-338.

Connolly, J. and Prothero, A. 2008 ‘Green consumption: life-politics, risk and contradictions.’ Journal of Consumer Culture 8(1): 117-45.

Corcoran, M. and Kettle P. 2015 'Urban agriculture, civil interfaces and moving beyond difference: the experiences of plot holders in Dublin and Belfast.' Local Environment 20 (10):1215-1230.

Ehrenfeld, J. and Hoffman, A.J. 2013 Flourishing: A Frank Conversation about Sustainability. Redwood City, CA, USA: Stanford University Press.

Evans, D. 2011 ‘Thrifty, green or frugal: reflections on sustainable consumption in a changing economic climate.’ Geoforum 42 (5): 550-557.

Franklin, A. 2011 ‘The Ethics of Second Hand Consumption’. In T. Lewis and E. Potter (eds). Ethical Consumption: A Critical Introduction, pp. 156-168. Oxon: Routledge.

Giddens, A. 1990 Consequences of modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Gregson, N. and Crew, L. 2003 Second Hand Cultures. Oxford: Berg.

Guiot, D. and Roux, D. 2010 ‘A second-hand shoppers’ motivation scale: antecedents, consequences, and implications for retailers.’ Journal of Retailing 86(4): 355-371.

Hart, K. 2010 The Human Economy. UK: Polity Press

Hinton, E. and Redclift, M. 2009 Austerity and Sufficiency: The Changing Politics of Sustainable Consumption. London: King's College London.

Holt, D. 2012 ‘Constructing sustainable consumption.’ The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 644(November): 236-255.

Humphery, K. 2010. ‘The simple and the good: ethical consumption as anti-consumerism.’ In T. Lewis and E. Potter (eds) Ethical Consumption: A Critical Introduction, pp. 40-53. London: Routledge.

Ince, A. and Hall, S.M. (eds.). 2017 Sharing Economies in Times of Crisis: Practices, Politics and Possibilities. Abingdon: Routledge.

Jackson, T. 2005 ‘Motivating sustainable consumption: a review of evidence on consumer behaviour and behavioural change.’ Report to the Sustainable Development Research Network, accessed 24 July, 2013, available at:

Jensen, T. 2013 ‘Tough love in tough times.’ Studies in the Maternal 4 (2), available at: (January 19th 2016).

Kenny, M. 2012 ‘Ireland faces a choice between lucre and liberty.’ The Guardian, May 25th., accessed 13 August, 2015.

Keohane, K. and Kuhling, C. 2014 The Political, Domestic and Moral Economies of Post Celtic Tiger Ireland. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Kilbourne, W. et al. 1997 ‘Sustainable consumption and the quality of life: a macromarketing challenge to the dominant social paradigm.’ Journal of Macromarketing 17: 4-24.

Kitchin, R. 2014 ‘The real-time city? Big data and smart urbanism.’ GeoJournal 79(1): 1-14.

Klein, N. 2014 This Changes Everything. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Lambkin, M. 2016 Consumer Market Monitor (Quarterly Report). Dublin: University College Dublin and Irish Marketing Institute.

McDonough, W. and Braungart, M. 2002 Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things. North Point Press: New York.

McDonagh, P. and Prothero, A. 2014 ‘Sustainability marketing research: past, present and future.’ Journal of Marketing Management 30(11-12): 1186-1219.

Miller, D. 2012 Consumption and Its Consequences. London: Polity Press.

Miller, D. 1998 A Theory of Shopping. UK: Cornell University Press.

Nava, M. 1991 ‘Consumerism reconsidered: buying and power.’ Cultural Studies 5(2): 157-173.

Murphy, F and Mcdonagh, P. (eds). 2016 Envisioning Sustainabilities: Towards an Anthropology of Sustainability. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Murphy, F. (Forthcoming) 2017. ‘The austerity myth: parenting and the new thrift culture in contemporary Ireland’. In Heffernan, E., Moore-Cherry, N. and McHale, J. Debating Austerity in Ireland. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy.

Nolan, B. et al. 2000 Bust to boom? The Irish Experience of Growth and Inequality. Dublin: IPA.

Paavola, J. 2001 ‘Towards sustainable consumption: economics and ethical concerns for the environment in consumer choice.’ Review of Social Economy 59 (2): 228-248.

Peattie, K. 2001 ‘Golden goose or wild goose? The hunt for the green consumer.’ Business Strategy and the Environment 10(4): 187-199.

Reisch, L. 2001 ‘Time and wealth: the role of time and temporalities for sustainable patterns of consumption.’ Time and Society 10:367-385.

Robinot, E. and J. L. Giannelloni 2009 ‘Attitudes towards environmentally friendly hospitality management: a measurement scale.’ Recherche et Applications en Marketing 24(2): 29-50.

Sachs, J. 2015 The Age of Sustainable Development. New York: Columbia University Press

Scott, K. et al. 2014 ‘Marketing and the new materialism.’ Journal of Macromarketing 34(3): 282-290.

Simms, A. 2001 An Environmental War Economy. UK: NEF Foundation.

Slater, D. 1997 Consumer culture and modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Soper, K. 2013 ‘The dialectics of progress: Irish ‘belatedness’ and the politics of prosperity.’ Ephemera 13(12): 249-267.

United Nations. 1987 Our Common Future - Brundtland Report. UK: Oxford University Press.

Waight, E. 2014 ‘Second-hand consumption among middle-class mothers in the UK: thrift, distinction and risk.’ Families, Relationships and Societies Vol.3(1): 159-162.

Wells, P. E. 2012 The Automotive Industry in an Era of Eco-austerity: Creating an Industry as if the Planet Mattered. Aldershot: Edward Elgar.

Wilk, R. 2009 ‘Consuming ourselves to death.’ In Crate, S. (ed.) Anthropology and Climate Change: From Encounters to Actions, pp. 265-276. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, Inc.

William K. R., O'Connell,P.J. and Prothero, A. (eds). 2016 Austerity and Recovery in Ireland: Europe's Poster Child and the Great Recession. Oxford: Oxford University Press.