The Ecological Economics of Consumption
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The Ecological Economics of Consumption

  • Current Issues in Ecological Economics series

Edited by Lucia A. Reisch and Inge Røpke

Research on consumption from an environmental perspective has exploded since the late 1990s. This important new volume cuts across disciplines to present the latest research in the field.
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Chapter 11: Community, reflexivity and sustainable consumption

Laurie Michaelis


11. Community, reflexivity and sustainable consumption Laurie Michaelis 11.1 INTRODUCTION This chapter sets out to explore the role of communities, and in particular ‘reflexive’ or ‘post-traditional’ communities (Beck et al. 1994), in sustainable consumption. It starts in the next section by briefly sketching out the magnitude of the environmental and ethical challenge posed by current consumption trends. It notes in particular the recent calls for factor-offour or more reductions in resource use associated with consumption in industrialised countries. But it also observes the strong ideological opposition to any initiative to reduce the level of material consumption. In consumer societies, consumption is mostly understood as an individual behaviour. The following section reviews some of the ways in which consumption patterns are shaped by the collective, including well-known market mechanisms but also emphasising the role of culture and discourse. The chapter then identifies potential sources of a culture of sustainable consumption, describing some of the diversity in current cultures of, and narratives about, consumption and also reviewing some perspectives on the ways in which new cultures may emerge. It focuses on the role of discourse in developing our personal and collective narratives, and hence our ethics of consumption. It explores how some of these ideas apply in the cases of three existing networks of communities that are seeking to promote sustainable consumption cultures. Finally, it considers what can be learned from their experiences and what might be the implications for a widespread shift towards sustainable patterns of consumption....

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