|Source: Digital Art Gallery|
"A shopping mall full of zen monks is not going to be particularly profitable because they don't want stuff enough"
- Dan Gilbert
One could say we live in a society of abundance - at least in the "Western" world. We have more than enough to eat, and the society of consumption brings us a vast panoply of items in any category, with new products available on the market daily. But I came across the very interesting notion, from Serge Latouche, that this is not a society of abundance at all. Why?
Well, it is simple: because we never stop wanting more.
In his book "Vers une société d'abondance frugale" (Towards a Society of Frugal Abundance), Serge Latouche introduces the idea that in this consumerist society, we actually live in a false abundance. What does that mean?
So we can't really say that we are lacking of anything, both in terms of basic needs (food, shelter) and interests/hobbies (from the hobby stuff to completely useless gadgets). I think it is even safe to say that we have more than we need. Abundance, then. But why is it "false"?
We don't feel like we have more than enough
But we mostly aren't satisfied with what we have, are we? We move from wishlist to wishlist, discarding the latest desired item more or less soon after purchase.
When I remember pas wishlists of mine, I felt strongly about owning these clothes at the time. Now, I realize that the items I have actually bought are now just like all the others, sitting comfortably in my closet, while I'm thinking of my next wishlist.
The "false" part of our society's abundance resides here: we don't lack of anything, but we still feel like we do, constantly.
So companies wouldn't want us to feel like we live in abundance, would they? That's where Serge Latouche's book gets interesting. He explains that the abundance is "false" because our society induces us to feel like we still need more stuff. With advertisements, TV shows displaying characters owning the latest gadget, magazines, blogs, any media really. We are bathed in an environment that compells us to want something new, and works against us being content with what we already have.
In his book, Serge Latouche presents an alternative society, of "frugal abundance". I won't go that deep in the debate today, but I thought this was a good food for thought. Because we are, in fact, living in a society of abundance. And the only thing that keeps us from being content is that we don't feel that abundance.
Meaning that, if we get aware of that, and consciously fight against this idea that we need more stuff to feel content, then maybe, on a personal level at least, we can start feeling the abundance and be content with our lives. What do you think?
Serge Latouche - "Vers une Société d'Abondance Frugale" (sadly not translated in English to my knowledge)
Dan Gilbert's TED talks
Less Stuff, More Happiness - Graham Hill