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The Problem with Consumerism

Aug 23

Written by:
23/08/2017 09:39  RssIcon

We caught up with Richard Docwra, founder of Life Squared  


In its broadest sense, consumerism can be seen as a particular view of the ‘good life’ – a view that says life is better when you have more ‘market goods’ (products, services and activities).”

The quote above comes from ‘The Problem with Consumerism’, published by Life Squared



Can you summarise the guide ‘The Problem with Consumerism’ in one sentence?

This Life Squared booklet explores consumerism and its effects on us, and suggests some ways in which we can reduce its impact on our lives, so that we can live the lives we really want.


You say this guide is one of your “most popular (and important) publications” – why do you think it’s so popular?

I think it’s struck a chord with thousands of people - not just in Britain but around the world - for a range of different reasons. Some people may have become annoyed by the ubiquity of advertising in their lives, others might be concerned about how quickly their kids have got locked into wanting more stuff and some might have been motivated to read it by a sense of unease about their own lives - that they’re spending time on things that don’t give them meaning and might be missing out on the lives they really want.

Overall, I think people are waking up to the fact that consumerism plays a big role in their lives and that they want to break free of the hold it has on them. 


Are there movements which give you hope that people can move ‘beyond consumerism’?

Sadly, very few political parties give me this hope, as most (certainly in the UK at least - with the honourable exception of the Green Party) still take for granted the idea that economic neoliberalism is the only game in town.

But there’s a swelling of political interest in the young that gives me cause for optimism, as well as a growth in social movements and initiatives that are challenging some of these dominant ideas (like consumerism) that rule our lives, and which recognise that our lives could be better if we pursued the things that really matter to us (like relationships, nature, creativity etc.) rather than simply money, material achievement and more stuff.


Where did Life Squared come from and what is its aim?

I was working at Oxfam about 20 years ago, and was dismayed at how the organisations that were trying to change the world on different issues (from economic justice to sustainability) were doing so with a blinkered, silo-based approach, which meant that they failed to see that these issues were interlinked.

This made me wonder how the public stood a chance of living in a well-informed, ethical way in such a complex world, especially given the role that consumerism and other influences play in feeding us a particular view of how we should live our lives, through material success, consumption etc.

Over time I developed an idea for an organisation that would help people to see the world more clearly, and live happier, wiser, better-informed lives. The aim was (and still is) to help people live the lives they really want - to be ‘authors of their own lives’ - rather than be moulded by other people’s agendas.


What other guides have you writen?

We have more than 40 publications on our site (all available to download for free), plus a range of links to hand-picked resources to help people live happier, wiser and more meaningful lives.

Our publications explore important issues or ideas that people may not have considered before, and that aren’t generally covered by the education system or other institutions - including consumerism, our pace of life, solitude, death and how to find meaning in life. All of our guides aim to tackle their subjects in an accessible, no-nonsense way.

Some of our most popular guides include ‘The modern life survival guide’, ‘How to think about death (and life)’ and ‘How to achieve less’. 









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