Confronting Consumption

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Thomas Princen, Michael Maniates, Ken Conca
MIT Press, 2002 - Business & Economics - 382 pages

Comforting terms such as "sustainable development" and "green production" frame environmental debate by stressing technology (not green enough), economic growth (not enough in the right places), and population (too large). Concern about consumption emerges, if at all, in benign ways; as calls for green purchasing or more recycling, or for small changes in production processes. Many academics, policymakers, and journalists, in fact, accept the economists' view of consumption as nothing less than the purpose of the economy. Yet many people have a troubled, intuitive understanding that tinkering at the margins of production and purchasing will not put society on an ecologically and socially sustainable path.

Confronting Consumption places consumption at the center of debate by conceptualizing "the consumption problem" and documenting diverse efforts to confront it. In Part 1, the book frames consumption as a problem of political and ecological economy, emphasizing core concepts of individualization and commoditization. Part 2 develops the idea of distancing and examines transnational chains of consumption in the context of economic globalization. Part 3 describes citizen action through local currencies, home power, voluntary simplicity, "ad-busting," and product certification. Together, the chapters propose "cautious consuming" and "better producing" as an activist and policy response to environmental problems. The book concludes that confronting consumption must become a driving focus of contemporary environmental scholarship and activism.

 

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Contents

Confronting Consumption
1
Consumption and Its Externalities Where Economy Meets Ecology
23
Individualization Plant a Tree Buy a Bike Save the World?
43
Commoditization Consumption Efficiency and an Economy of Care and Connection
67
Chains of Consumption
101
Distancing Consumption and the Severing of Feedback
103
Consumption and Environment in a Global Economy
133
The Distancing of Waste Overconsumption in a Global Economy
155
In Search of Consumptive Resistance The Voluntary Simplicity Movement
199
Jamming Culture Adbusters Hip Media Campaign against Consumerism
237
Think Globally Transact Locally The Local Currency Movement and Green Political Economy
255
Caveat Certificatum The Case of Forest Certification
275
Citizens or Consumers The Home Power Movement as a New Practice of Technology
301
Conclusion To Confront Consumption
317
Notes
329
Contributors
375

Environmentally Damaging Consumption The Impact of American Markets on Tropical Ecosystems in the Twentieth Century
177
On the Ground
197

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About the author (2002)

Thomas Princen is the author of The Logic of Sufficiency (2005) and lead editor of Confronting Consumption (2002), both published by the MIT Press and both winners of the International Studies Association's Harold and Margaret Sprout Award for best book on international environmental affairs. He teaches social and ecological sustainability at the University of Michigan.

Michael Maniates is Associate Professor of Political Science and Environmental Science at Allegheny College.

Ken Conca is Associate Professor of Government and Politics and Director of the Harrison Program on the Future Global Agenda at the University of Maryland.