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By Russell Keat (auth.)

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After all, it essentially comprises people’s ‘first-person’ knowledge of their desires, beliefs and so on: that is, in the kind of knowledge for which everyone has indisputable ‘authority’ in their own case (perhaps the only kind of knowledge which needs no special structure of social authority to produce or validate). ‘It’s true because I say it is’: this is the authority of the consumer with respect to first-person knowledge claims about their preferences and/or the satisfaction of these. No one else knows any better, and hence no one else has the right to challenge such claims, or to replace them with others ‘more’ authoritatively made.

6 Again, whilst conceptually confused, this may have the virtue of encouraging such ‘moderns’ to acknowledge the necessary role of social authority within their intellectual practices, even if, rightly unconvinced by such scepticism, they continue to regard this authority as legitimate. 2 The authority of consumer preferences I turn now to the concept of consumer sovereignty, and explore its relationship to the issues about scepticism and authority presented above. Although one is unlikely to find much explicit discussion of this concept in standard textbook accounts of a market economy, I shall suggest that its implicit role in these has considerable significance for arguments about what kinds of activities and goods are suitably located within the market domain.

Thus, for example, academics complain that the pressure to compete for students undermines their own conception of what is educationally worthwhile, and that the value of their research is now being judged by intellectually facile considerations of ‘marketability’; television programme-makers argue that government-initiated reforms of broadcasting will lead to a decline in the quality of programmes; theatre directors, dance companies and musicians claim that the new criteria for funding imposed by the Arts Council make it increasingly difficult to nurture innovation or to maintain artistic integrity; museum curators protest that by being reduced to the status of a leisure industry the purposes properly served by their collections are put at risk; and so on.

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