Different Sides of the Same Coin Political Ideology and Mask Avoidance or Adoption in the Age of COVID- 19

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Anti-Consumption: Exploring the Opposition to Consumer Culture


In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing masks created controversies and divided many consumers into pro versus anti-mask factions. Drawing on social media pages and online forums discussing the symbolic significance of the mask during the COVID-19 pandemic, this chapter explores how political ideologies serve to unify, rationalize, and legitimize pro-maskers’ and anti-maskers’ behavior. Our analysis reveals that two largely opposing political ideologies – collective responsibility and individual liberty – act as a filter through which consumers perceive the symbolic significance of wearing a mask. Legal, medical, fashion, and advertising systems interact with basic human needs for health and well-being, autonomy, affiliation, and competence to shape the symbolism associated with wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic. The consequence of this is that the symbolism of wearing masks for pro-maskers and anti-maskers reflects different sides of the same proverbial coin. Both groups discuss health and well-being, autonomy, affiliation, and competence, but the distorting influence of the collective responsibility ideology translates to viewing masks as enabling these needs, whereas the individual liberty ideology translates to viewing masks as inhibitors.

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