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The consumer in public servicesChoice, values and difference$
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Richard Simmons, Martin Powell, and Ian Greener

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9781847421814

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781847421814.001.0001

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Introduction: managing the ‘unmanageable consumer’

Introduction: managing the ‘unmanageable consumer’

(p.1) One Introduction: managing the ‘unmanageable consumer’
The consumer in public services

Martin Powell

Shane Doheny

Ian Greener

Nick Mills

Policy Press

This chapter aims to widen the focus on the consumer of public services, beyond ‘the consumer as chooser’. If New Labour's citizens can be ‘activated, empowered, responsibilised, or abandoned’, then New Labour's consumers can be equally diverse. After briefly examining the broader context of citizens, consumers, and clients in the welfare state, the chapter focuses on consumerism of public services. Much recent writing tends to ignore a rich and diverse history of consumerism and choice in public services. The chapter then examines the different faces of the consumer, before turning to focus on the varied mechanisms of choice. It concludes that focusing on one face of consumerism and on a few mechanisms of choice oversimplifies the great diversity associated with the terms, and raises the question of whether consumerism in public services may be contextual: different faces and mechanisms may work for different people in different contexts.

Keywords:   consumerism, public services, choice mechanisms, New Labour

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