The “customer” metaphor

Chris Corrigan offers an eloquent challenge to the notion of citizens as “customers”.

Communities are not strategic entities with goals and mission statements – what is the the strategic objective of your neighbourhood? So much community planning confuses processes and measures aimed at organizational efficiency and applies them to community building. The purposes are different. The purpose of community is belonging happiness, a sense of security, wellbeing, resiliance. Communities are not efficient, they are not a good use of resources, they do not exhibit directionality.

I’ve got a friend working in social care who has similar issues with the ubiquitous term “service user” to describe those he works with. There’s something about this kind of language that seems to ignore the humanity of all involved.

1 thought on “The “customer” metaphor

  1. Gavin Heaton

    Agree with the awkwardness of ‘service user’ – though I use it myself, on occasion (I seem to alternate between ‘client’ and ‘service user’ every other month in my work with homelessness orgs.

    The weird thing about, say, homelessness orgs is that they take a MASSIVE group of people and say to them, “Well, you’re all different and you’re all diverse but, for the sake of convenience, we’re going to put you into a category where you’re defined by a particular failure – your lack of a home – so we can secure funding.”

    As if they ARE a community.


    Oh I agree – that kind of language is horrid. It’s about time we looked at how the structure of language creates problems in the way that we respond to an act upon human scale issues.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.