I am happy that you have managed to click your way into this blog. Before you lose interest or jump to conclusions, let me start by explaining what this blog is, and what it is not.
First, this blog is not here to say that consumption is bad. Consumption is and will always be necessary for human beings, and in some parts of the world there is a need for increasing levels of consumption. Rather, this blog is here to explore and communicate the multifaceted aspects of consumption, and what these facets mean in terms of changes that can lead to more sustainable consumption patterns.
Second, changing patterns of consumption does not mean that our lives will be less fun. As Richard Wilk, a leading consumption scholar pointed out recently, changes should not infringe on peoples fun! However, I believe we should question our constant quest for satisfaction and material acquisition, and ask, what makes us happy? A growing base of research shows that there is no connection between happiness and increased economic growth or high income-levels.
Third, this blog will strive to include several disciplines to highlight the complexities related to consumption. However, there will be a preference to redirect from the prevailing supply and demand paradigm, where people are seen as individuals that mostly respond to the price of a good. Rather, the societal and daily life aspects of consumption are highlighted, in order to see that we are not only talking about a problem of individual attitude and behaviour, but also of habit, practice, and larger societal and structural issues. In practical terms, this could mean addressing the so-called ‘work-life’ balance, our levels of income, or how forces outside of our power can influence our actions.
“We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t care about”
This quote, according to Wikipedia first stated by Walter Slezak, neatly summarises the problem at hand that will be explored further in this blog. All the above points will be further elaborated in later blog posts, and supported with more sources that back up the claims made.
Lastly, there are some things worth mentioning in this first real blog post of consummary.
This blog is about consumption, but what does that really mean? There are several definitions out there, but the one that includes the most aspects irrespective of disciplinary background appears to be the one by Campbell (1995: 102). He said that
consumption involves “the selection, purchase, use, maintenance, repair, and disposal of any product or service.”
This definition amongst other things includes the aspects of consumption that have to do with waste, a topic that I am particularly interested in. As the blog develops, we will attempt to touch upon each aspect.
I should also say some words about myself. I am no expert in the field of consumption, I am merely interested in the subject, and want to make it more known. My own background is within social sciences; more specifically science and technology studies, and innovation studies. My research at the moment is focussed on China’s renewable energy industry, and how China is now attempting to develop wind power. As China is one of the countries with the fastest economic growth, it is also an important motivator for me to engage in the topic.
This means that I by no means can say that I cover the whole literature and discussion on consumption. My understanding of consumption, and the things that I find interesting will therefore limit these first blogs posts. As we move on, however, the aim is to invite scholars and activists that have more experience with particular topics of interest. This way we can cover a broader span of issues related to sustainable consumption.
Also, in order to avoid the so-called “TLDR” phenomenon (too long, didn’t read) blog-posts will be kept short and focussed.
I hope you will be following!
PS: For inspiration, check out this blog, and the film “The Story of Stuff”:
Campbell, Colin (1995), Ch. 3: The Sociology of Consumption, in Miller, Daniel (Ed.), Acknowledging Consumption. A Review of New Studies, pp. 96-126, Routledge