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Consumption as production: revising the concepts of economy

Consumption as production: revising the concepts of economy

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Consumption as production: revising the concepts of economy

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  1. Consumption as production: revising the concepts of economy Presentation at the the Conference on Sustainable Future 9–10 June in Tampere

  2. Tentative issues • When taking for granted that the society of consumers has replaced the society of producers, it follows that: - Consumer has become the central economic agent of the society - Economy can and has to be considered from the viewpoint of consumption and consumers - The new angle brings along a reverse power dimension - Purchasing power is a potential power for societal change

  3. Theses about the meaning of consumption • The term ‘consumption’ has in everyday language and scholarly analyses two meanings, the purchase and the using up of goods and services • Consumption should produce welfare, but itfails to do it, because - it is the use of goods and money that creates welfare, not their buying - people are locked in consumption-intensive practises - in present day practices the utilization rate of the means of consumption is low

  4. How to enlarge the use potential of goods • In order for consumption to be economical (non-prodigal), the utilization rate of the means of consumption should be raised. Generally, it means that - (privately owned) goods, particularly durables, should be considered more as social goods or commons than exclusively private items - the (private) right to own and the (common) right to useup goods should coexist - the offering or usability of single goods should be enlarged by favouring their durable, consecutive, multifunctional and multilateral or multipersonal use

  5. Further issues and consequences • Based on the market mechanism, production of goods can adapt to such a demand that implies a broader offering of the goods • This kind of production creates the material ground for the new practices based on an attitude toward commons • New use ethics is needed when mutual use of goods is practiced • The purpose is to better the social quality of goods

  6. Innovations of use • In large scale, the question isabout shifting from exchange economy to use economy where use values replace exchange values as a desired objective of development and growth • Social innovations could be seen as innovations of use which in turn would give an incentive to the increasing number of producers to concentrate on maximizing the use values in products • Innovations, then, focus on (a) development of the usability of goods and (b) how to raise their utilization rate

  7. Networking consumers • There is an increasing number of consumers who have reached the saturation point in consumption • The change, presented hereby, implies that the private or individual use of money and goods, then, partly merges within and among user circles or usernetworks established by emancipation-oriented consumers • The ’archipelago’ of expanding and tightening user networks is the scene or locus of desirable, sustainable development

  8. New practices –> new praxis • The combined effect of two factors could initiate the change: (1) increasing number of people that are becoming aware of the global limits of the sustainable consumption (= cognitive incentive) and (2) at micro-level, loss of psycho-social meaning of over-consumption (= experiential or existential incentive). • The new kind of praxis would be made up by a combination of practices released from the ’ostentatious’ or ’conspicuous’ aspects of consumption (terms coined by Veblen)

  9. About the opportunity of change Citizens of the consumer society have in their possession a ”counter-capital” made up of the purchasing power and all the goods they own Currently, the counter-capital is scattered into the possession of atomistic individuals, who use it against nature, human relations and finally against themselves. As it is historically and socially conditioned, the situation can be changed Joining their purchasing power, a ”critical mass” of cooperating consumers make it possible to direct production toward a sustaining ground

  10. References • Most of the concepts introduced in this presentation (and in my full paper) are tentatively processed by Aapo Riihimäki in his five books from 1976-2006, and further elaborated in my dissertation which is currently under review • My inspirers have been e.g. Veblen, Marcuse, Bloch, Galbraith, Bauman, Baudrillard, Peirce, Lazzarato, Warde...