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Creating Citizen-Consumers: Changing Relationships and Identifications

April 2003 - March 2005

This recently completed project, funded by the ESRC and AHRB under the 'Cultures of Consumption' research programme, explored changing relationships and identifications in the intersection between the public and public services. It studied three different services: health care, policing and social care in a period when public services were being urged to treat people who used services as 'consumers'. The research team surveyed and interviewed members of the public, front line staff and managers in three services - health care, policing and social care in order to explore:

  • How have public services adapted to consumerist ideals and pressures?
  • Have the three services adapted in different ways?
  • What relationships and identifications matter to the public when they use public services?

The research team reported that people were becoming more assertive in their relationships with public services: less deferential, more willing to express their needs and to challenge providers. The services studied were trying to adapt to this more assertive public and its changing expectations. However, despite the changes to service relationships, both the users and providers of services emphasised that there are many ways in which 'It's not like shopping'.

Principal Investigator: Prof John Clarke
Co-Investigator: Prof Janet Newman

Learn more about the research programme: Publics