Wednesday, 6 July 2016

A word or two on Consumerism.

I have talked about minimalism and simple living a good deal now. But I feel I should talk a little about consumerism, too. It is a fascinating topic and for me, it is really at the core of the motivation to try to pursue a simpler lifestyle. I don't want to bore you with lots of dry facts, so I've gathered a few comments and links on the topic that have been food for thought for me. 

Consumerism as a social and economic order and ideology encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts (source). The development of consumer societies meant the erosion of the traditional values and attitudes of thrift and prudence.(Sharon Beder)

One essay that has really made an impact on me is Sharon Beder's "Consumerism - an Historical Perspective". She is writing about how consumerism developped (mainly focussing on the US) and why. It's just a 5 minutes read and very rewarding.

I've also stumbled over this graph, which shows fullfillment x consumption. If you search online for "consumption fulfillment curve" you get tons of articles and graphs. I woul like to draw your attention to two things.
  1. A lot of curves mark a precise point of "enough consumption". It usually is about where the "x" of luxury is, at the very top of the curve. I find this really strange, because the definition of "luxury" sort of suggest that it is not really necessary. That why I want to strongly point at 
  2. "Other means" - within the material comfort zone, this tiny unspectacular arrow points up with "other means" to fulfillment. And I think this is the most important bit of the whole graph. Because it indicates that "comfort" is enough, luxury not necessary (sic!) and to achieve a greater level of fulfillment one must search for other means. Beyond consumption. (the arrow even seems to point up exponentially...!)

from: - Dr. Jean Rodrigue, presentation on environment and society. Worth looking at!

Thinking about what  Basic needs are is really enlightening and helps to focus if in doubt. ;)

Another topic closely linked to simple living is Frugality. Underneath the article on frugality are a lot of interesting Wikipedia links to connected topics.

In the context of consuming I would like to point out two more wikipedia articles:
This one on Conspicuous consumption  (->German version)

And a relative new kind of consumer
(German link) I think this is a con to lure us into "feel-good" consumption. What I don't understand about "lifestyle of health and sustainability" is, why it needs extra products. But maybe I just don't understand it. ;)

And last but not least, the opposite of consumerism:   Anti-consumerism

And a lot of the time when I read and think about what to do and not to do, is to wonder, if I might end up being one of these absolutely click through all the other terms connected ("see also" links), it's great!)

I think the most important thing is to find a way of life that is consistent with your character. What you consume, how much you consume, that is completely up to you and nobody else's business.

I am trying to find my own way together with my family, and although of course we are consuming, too, I am trying to stay aware of the fact that we are living in a consumer society and that I don't really want to be drawn into mindless, automatic consumerism. My personal approach is to reduce consume to a reasonable level. To appreciate that we are living in the "comfort zone" and that we have access to luxuries and even extravagancies. For me, the awareness of what is a luxury in every day life fills me with gratitude and contentment.

[...]we need to award status to those who are happy with a basic level of comfort rather than those who accumulate possessions. If, as a community, we admired wisdom above wealth and compassion and cooperation above competition, we would be well on the way to undermining the motivation to consume. (Sharon Beder, 'Consumerism – an Historical Perspective', Pacific Ecologist 9, Spring 2004, pp. 42-48.)

"Consuming consumes you!"

Just because it is interesting. The following links are about that the simplest solutions with the least amount of variables is usually the most likely/best. English:

And the famous Fable of the Bees
German: Bienenfabel von Bernard Mandeville


  1. This is so interesting! I really enjoyed reading the articles in this post. Thank you for sharing the pieces of your life that you do - it is really inspiring to me to observe somebody who really lives carefully and minimally. The sort of thing that I aspire to do but am still a beginner at! I rarely comment but just want you to know that your life adventures are read and appreciated. :)

    1. Hei Abigael,
      thank you for your really nice comment! It's lovely to hear that there are people out there reading (and liking) the blog! ;) I would completely consider myself a beginner as far as minimalism is concerned (and other things, too). And I still refuse to call myself a minimalist. I look at it as a "way" of living, it is something very "in flux" and more a direction to aim for than something that is ever complete and perfect. :) How about joining the Make and Mend Challenge?! ;)