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Deconsumerism everyone's talking about, but what is it?

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In the media, it is often said that since 2016, France is taking the path of deconsumerism. A growing sensitivity to ecology, sustainable development, the animal cause, feminist values, psychospirituality and societal commitment would be at the origin of this trend. What is clear is that everyday practices seem to be changing. The French are said to be increasingly sober in their consumption, without this being linked to a question of purchasing power. Fanny Parise, an anthropologist at the University of Lausanne, gives us her thoughts in an attempt to define and understand this movement.

Juntil the beginning of the 21st centurye In the nineteenth century, the possession of mass market goods was a symbol of modernity and social success, a luxury that was expressed through the level of equipment of an individual or a household. This is still the norm in emerging countries, especially for the new middle classes, as explained in the following pages. Dominique Desjeux. In westernized countries, the trend seems to be reversing, as evidenced by the media craze for "de-consumption".

The entrance door to "de-consumption" is self-centred. Doing good for oneself and one's family has become an accessible luxury through a differentiated management of one's wallet. By limiting prepared meals, reducing red meat in your diet, but also by carpooling or subletting your apartment on weekends (in 2016 40 % of the French population has already booked a home online between individuals), the followers of these new consumption patterns manage to free up money that they can reinvest in other consumer goods, more ethicaland at the same time achieve a more sustainable way of life for the planet.

Recognizing oneself in the act of "de-consuming" means making a transition between one's initial way of living and consuming and the ideal of life to which everyone aspires: it is a question of reducing the "waste" of the environment. "Cognitive dissonance." of everyday life. Paradoxically, the crystallization of this concept into a "lifestyle" seems to have been initiated by mass distribution, presented in this trend as the big loser of this evolution of the consumer society, as evidenced by advertisements and campaigns to reappropriate the phenomenon (Carrefour and its campaign to promote banned vegetables, Monoprix buying Naturalia, or the launch of anti-waste operations in supermarkets.).

It's as if the company has to adapt to a handful of "radicalized" of consumption. The press relates the reappropriation by active minorities of the values conveyed by neo-hippie militancy, sometimes, and most often unintentionally, reviving the values of a neo-hippie militancy, sometimes, and most often unintentionally, reviving the values of a neo-hippie militancy, sometimes, and most often unintentionally, reviving the values of a neo-hippie militancy, sometimes, and most often unintentionally, reviving the values of a neo-hippie militancy, sometimes, and most often unintentionally, reviving the values of a neo-hippie militancy, sometimes, and most often unintentionally, reviving the values of a neo-hippie militancy, sometimes, and most often unintentionally, reviving the values of a neo-hippie militancy, sometimes, and most often unintentionally, reviving the values of a neo-hippie militancy. ecological fascism inherited from the 1960s. Scouts, activists, secant outsiderspost-conventional profile...? The fact remains that this minority is leading a majority to re-examine their way of consuming.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_INOPfPdhB4

The "de-consumers", new creators of wealth

Working class, middle class and upper class, all decide to consume less to live better: near by one third of French households declare themselves to be flexitarian and there has been an annual growth of 8.4 % for "organic" products. The expression of this awareness and its implementation differs depending on the individual and his or her position in the social hierarchy. Where the working classes see "de-consumption" as part of an informal economy and a "social economy" approach, it is not the same for all individuals and their position in the social hierarchy. "Resourcefulness." to increase their rest to liveThe middle classes are anchoring these new practices in an economy of use rather than having, made possible by the explosion of collaborative platforms and digital. Their "de-consumption" can have different expressions: spending less to consume more (BlaBlaCar, Airbnb), making luxury accessible through its democratization (Uber democratizes the private drivers of the big discount, have a personal shopper is accessible in a few clicks and at an affordable price), or modernize certain domestic practices thanks to the DIY tendency (decoration, gardening, cooking, DIY).

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The upper classes, for their part, often reported the "de-consumption" of their trips to California or Asia, inspired by a new way of life (detoxification treatment, renewal of design inspired by the wabi-sabi Japanese, zero-waste trend). They set the tone in the media and on social networks. This new controlled freedom also leads to its excesses, particularly in relation to food (making anorexia sexy and democratizing orthorexia...), but also to the ideology (proximity between the Regeneration movement (Thierry Casasnovas) and the Equality and Reconciliation movement (Alain Soral)).

Fluid mechanics and anthropological equilibrium: what is the social function of "de-consumption"?

It is as if the principle of "de-consumption" referred to a principle of rebalancing consumption practices according to a certain number of variables that directly or indirectly impact consumption: purchasing power, health scandals, climatic effects, etc. The principle of "de-consumption" is a principle of rebalancing consumption practices according to a certain number of variables that directly or indirectly impact consumption: purchasing power, health scandals, climatic effects, etc. It is as if the principle of "de-consumption" referred to a principle of rebalancing consumption practices according to a certain number of variables that directly or indirectly impact consumption: purchasing power, health scandals, climatic effects, etc. This establishment of a new balance refers to a well-known principle: that of communicating vessels.

In fluid mechanics, the principle of communicating vessels establishes that a homogeneous liquid filling several containers, connected to each other at their base and subjected to the same atmospheric pressure, equilibrates at the same height in each of them. In sociology, V. Pareto objectively states a similar principle. According to him, society is composed of different interdependent elements constituting a social system. To analyse it, one must grasp a state at a given moment, the "state of equilibrium", as in fluid mechanics. This principle can be applied to the analysis of the household budget: the set of containers constitutes the different items of household expenditure. On each of these items is grafted an important ethical or societal value for individuals. There is a correlation not only of cost/benefit, but also of value/benefit. The cost is thus self-regulating through "de-consumption" strategies within the dynamics of balancing pots.

Applied to elite traffic theory and still according to V. Pareto, we can establish a correlation between the democratization of "de-consumption" and the values of a new luxury advocated by this phenomenon. According to him, the upper classes are always at the origin of the new trends, but they must have the approval of the rest of the population in order to maintain their dominant position. Thus, the arrival of these new consumer values (induced by the economic crisis of 2008) has led the upper classes to redefine the contours of luxury. They had to find new strategies of social distinctions that were not ostentatious in relation to the global economic situation. That is to say, a luxury and a life ethic inspired by consumption norms (constraints) from other social groups: the working classes (resourcefulness) and the middle classes (collaborative economy)). The capture by the upper classes of these social tensions has allowed the normalization and integration of "de-consumption" as a positive value of mass consumption, presented as valuable because it is individualized and whose benefit is no longer based solely on cost but on values; conferring a new sacredness to consumption.

De-consumption" is a protean phenomenon that makes it possible to create a society. It brings "meaning" to those who consume according to this dynamic. It is a vector of wealth creation for our society. Thus, although consumption is falling in volume, it will continue to grow in value in 2017 (Nielsen Institute figures). De-consumption" seems to be a new marker of social distinction for the upper classes and a consumption trend that allows the rest of the population to continue to consume, not necessarily less... but still as much, all this with a clear conscience: it is the phenomenon of "de-consumption". "double consumption".

Fanny PariseAssociate Researcher, Anthropology, Institut lémanique de théologie pratique, Lausanne University

The original text of this article was published on The Conversationeditorial partner of UP' Magazine

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