Consumer Sovereignty and the Ethics of Recognition

Kushagra Bhatnagar, Julien Cayla*, Delphine Dion, Gregorio Fuschillo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The rising prominence of consumer sovereignty, wherein businesses prioritize customers as kings, presents complex ethical dilemmas. This paper delves into the ethical implications of consumer sovereignty by examining the lack of recognition to which service workers are subjected in their interactions with customers. Applying the sensitizing lens of recognition theory, we investigate how the relational domination inherent in the service industry ultimately results in four main recognition gaps: visibility, status recognition, affective recognition, and capacity recognition gaps. These gaps considerably hinder an employee’s ability to experience workplace dignity. Our findings enrich the business ethics literature by providing a more holistic analysis of the ethical challenges raised by consumer sovereignty. We introduce recognition theory as a framework to address these concerns and offer recommendations for managers to better support their service employees in overcoming the absence of customer recognition.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Aug 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Customer interactions
  • Dignity
  • Service work


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