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Strategies for Cultural Change: Degrowth and the Use of Space

Strategies for Cultural Change: Degrowth and the Use of Space

Degrowth addresses the negative consequences of consumerism (psychological stress, long working hours and positional competition) and discusses the benefits of frugal lifestyles. Henri Lefebvre, a French philosopher from the 20th century, argues that if ideas or values are not physically implemented in space, they become mere fantasies. As such, if degrowth wishes to prevail, it has to leave its mark on space, just as consumerism has successfully done. This article considers ideas of creating space and human-nature connectedness, which in combination, seem to be a perfect match in forming a strategy for degrowth.

Consumption Culture

Supermarkets, drugstores and bazaars have all kinds of techniques to make consumers want stuff that they do not need. The placement of toys at children’s eye level or sweets near checkout counters are just two examples. These are processes of rationalization according to Henri Lefebvre. Rationalization leads consumers into buying more than they intend to. On the other hand, there is something that Lefebvre calls enchantment. Processes of enchantment make consumption seem more attractive to consumers by branding the product as artisanal, locally sourced or socially conscious. An example of this would be McDonald’s creation of a ‘rustic’ burger.

Through the interplay between rationalization and enchantment, people are constantly lured into the role of a consumer.

If the consumption paradigm is secretly oppressing consumers, why do individuals not break free from this role? All they have to do, so it seems, is stop purchasing superfluous goods. In other words, one might wonder, are consumers not responsible for their own oppression? According to Lefebvre, individuals occupy space the way it is offered to them. People are constantly stimulated to exercise their individual freedom by means of purchasing a variety of goods. Emile Durkheim, a French sociologist, perceived consumption as a collective behaviour that has been forced upon humankind.

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