It is increasingly argued that the environmental and social problems that afflict industrialized societies cannot be resolved without a change in citizens’ lifestyles and consumption practices. In recent years, the inability (or unwillingness) of institutions in proposing solutions and implement policies to address these issues have stimulated the development of new social movements that, while increasing general awareness on the social effects of consumption practices, have favored the emergence and spread of forms of procurement based on the direct relationship and solidarity between consumers and producers. The article presents the results of a recent study on solidarity purchase groups (GAS), currently the most widespread form of organized political consumerism in Italy. Analyzing the results collected with two on line questionnaires, filled out by 204 members of GAS in Lombardy and by 1658 families belonging to the same groups, the article reflects on the mechanisms that have fostered the spread of these forms of collective action, exploring both the reasons that have encouraged individuals to take part in these experiences as well as the internal organization and strategies of GAS.
Keywords: Solidarity purchase groups, critical consumption, new forms of political participation, social movements, individual and collective responsibility