Innovations in Sustainable Consumption

Innovations in Sustainable Consumption

New Economics, Socio-technical Transitions and Social Practices

Advances in Ecological Economics series

Edited by Maurie J. Cohen, Halina Szejnwald Brown and Philip J. Vergragt

This timely volume recognizes that traditional policy approaches to reduce human impacts on the environment through technological change – for example, emphasizing resource efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources – are insufficient to meet the most pressing sustainability challenges of the twenty-first century. Instead, the editors and contributors argue that we must fundamentally reconfigure our lifestyles and social institutions if we are to make the transition toward a truly sustainable future.

Chapter 5: Welcome to the consumption line: sustainability, social organization and the wage- price gap

Emanuel Ubert and Michael M. Bell

Subjects: environment, ecological economics


Consumption is the most everyday of acts. It is something we all do. It is a social phenomenon. And yet we typically understand it as a matter of individual action, using metaphors of choice, value and supply to describe its origin and aspiration. We are coming to understand that consumption has tremendous collective consequences for our economy, ecology and society. But we still have trouble understanding that the act of consumption is something that is socially organized, patterned by culture, economy, state and politics, and not merely an act of utilitarian satisfaction by a free-thinking and sovereign consumer. Some authors have even gone so far as to state outright that a focus on consumption is at best a distraction from the real stuff that moves our lives. As none other than Karl Marx (1956) wrote in the second volume of Das Kapital, ‘It is sheer tautology to say that crises are caused by lack of effective consumption, or effective consumers,’ referring to the Marxist theory of economic crisis.

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