Confronting Consumption / Edition 1

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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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A Comprehensive analysis of how and why consumer society wreaks havoc on Earth."

" excellent exploration of what could turn out to be one of the frontrank issues of our time." Norman Myers Nature

"Are you willing to confront consumption?...then read this book." Vicki Robin Journal of Positive Futures

"... read this book." Vicki Robin Journal of Positive Futures

"The authors are to be commended for breaking the code of silence surrounding consumption and engaging the debate." Richard Walthers Green @ Work Magazine

"The book certainly succeeds in thinking 'outside the box'..." Global EnvironmentalPolitics

"The book certainly succeeds in thinking 'outside the box'." Global EnvironmentalPolitics

"This book is important not just for its brilliance but for its rarity: few environmental scholars have dared to take on this issue in a manner that goes beyond rhetorical posturing and 'limits to growth' type arguments." Lamont C. Hempel, Hedco Professor of EnvironmentalStudies and Director of Environmental Programs, University of Redlands

"This book is important not just for its brilliance but for its rarity: few environmental scholars have dared to take on this issue in a manner that goes beyond rhetorical posturing and 'limits to growth' type arguments."—Lamont C. Hempel, Hedco Professor ofEnvironmental Studies and Director of Environmental Programs, University of Redlands

"Consumption deserves serious attention. This volume moves the literature beyond the work of a few isolated scholars and consumption activists to a collective enterprise of solid researchers critiquing and building on each other's contributions. Long overdue, but worth waiting for."—Richard B. Norgaard, University of California, Berkeley

"Confronting Consumption provides a fresh new look at the systemic problems of consumption in the global economy. It offers a highly readable account of the impacts of consumerism on our vulnerable planetary resources and asks whether a sustainable consumption movement may be emerging. Scholars, teachers, and activists alike will be enriched by the book's analysis and inspired by new possibilities for confronting the complexities of consumption."—Carolyn Merchant,Professor of Environmental History, Philosophy, and Ethics, University of California, Berkeley,author of Radical Ecology: The Search for a Livable World and Earthcare: Women and theEnvironmentPlease note: Endorser gives permission to excerpt from quote.

"A dynamic, vital book that takes your breath away! Confronting Consumption shows why consumption is the blockbuster problem that our society can no longer ignore. Readers will feel real excitement as they explore this stimulating book and will begin to understand why thousands of people in the Simplicity movement are turning their backs on 'getting and spending' and reclaiming'the good life' — building lives of high satisfaction and low environmental impact in a caring and just community."—Cecile Andrews, author of The Circle of Simplicity

"This book addresses, to spectacular effect, the great silence about the vast appetite for resources in contemporary North America. These wide-ranging analyses of consumerism successfully bring together the cultural and the ecological, the structural and the symbolic, the local and the global. They join rights to responsibilities and ethics to public policy. In terms of both vision and execution, this is a landmark volume."—Ramachandra Guha, author ofEnvironmentalism: A Global History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262661287
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 392
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

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

Michael Maniates is Professor of Political Science and Environmental Science at AlleghenyCollege. He is the coeditor, with Thomas Princen and Ken Conca, of ConfrontingConsumption (MIT Press, 2002).

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

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Table of Contents

1 Confronting Consumption
Thomas Princen, Michael Maniates, Ken Conca
Part I The Consumption Angle
2 Consumption and its Externalities: Where Economy Meets Ecology Thomas Princen
3 Individualization: Plant a Tree, Buy A Bike, Save the World? Michael Maniates
4 Commoditization: Consumption Efficiency and
an Economy of Care and Connection Jack Manno
Part II Chains of Consumption
5 Distancing: Consumption and the Severing of Feedback Thomas Princen
6 Consumption and Environment in a Global Political Economy Ken Conca
7 The Distancing of Waste: Overconsumption in a Global Economy Jennifer Clapp
8 Environmentally Damaging Consumption: The Impact of American Markets
on Tropical Ecosystems in the Twentieth Century Richard Tucker
Part III On the Ground
9 In Search of Consumptive Resistance: The Voluntary Simplicity Movement Michael Maniates
10 Jamming Culture: Adbusters' Hip Campaign Against Consumerism
Marilyn Bordwell
11 Think Globally, Transact Locally: The Local Currency Movement
and Green Political Economy
Eric Helleiner
12 Caveat Certificatum: The Case of Forest Certification
Fred Gale
13 Citizens or Consumers: The Home Power Movement
as a New Practice of Technology
Jesse Tatum
14 Conclusion: To Confront Consumption
Thomas Princen, Michael Maniates, Ken Conca
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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2003

    Best Book in Global Environmental Affairs

    This award-winning book ("The Best Book in Global Environmental Affairs" according to the International Studies Association) offers an accessible and engaging analysis of the 800 pound gorilla in the living room that environmentalists find difficult to talk about with force: overconsumption. The early portion of the book documents the problem; the middle chunk offers a set of mental lenses for making sense of our quandry; and the final chapters offer real-life stories of actors and movements (the voluntary simplicity movement, for example, and the home power and local currency movements too) challenging the upward escalating trajectory of the consumption of "stuff." What's especially helpful about the book -- in addition to its "something for everyone" flavor -- is that it moves beyond simplistic prescriptions to "squash advertising" or "buy recycled products." Indeed, it is rather skeptical of these measures, which it views as diversionary activities meant to take our eye off the underlying forces at war with the planet. Instead, it offers strategies for coming together collectively to challenge broader powers and structures that make it so difficult for people worried about the future of the planet to live more with less.

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