WG 4: Social and psychological questions

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WG 4: Social and psychological questions – especially:

WG 4.1 strengthening social capital

rationale for inclusion: maintaining close relations with family, friends, neighbour and colleagues is one of the principal means of promoting well-being.

see WG 5.2 also.

The Church has also always emphasised the role of the church community in our spiritual development and in promoting responsible citizenship generally.

Additionally the promotion of localisation, of vibrant local communities. plays an important role in the reduction of carbon emissions and of other environmental impacts. Research by transport planners suggests that to reduce the fast-rising travel emissions we need to reduce the need to travel at source, as well as encouraging model changes and changes. Ref to papers produced for CEL/ecocell workshop ‘Not from A to B but make A a better place to Be’.

RobertPutnam (2000) ‘Bowling alone’: analysed the downward trend in the strength of social capital in the decades since the end of WW2. Among the changes required to reverse that trend he argues are: less inequality (the very poor tend not to have the time, skills or resources to contribute to community life), less families with both parents working full time (again no time left over if doing full time work), less commuting (again the time factor).

At the personal level, he argues, we need to challenge the excess belief in personal control and autonomy encouraged by modern society, to question unreal expectations of what we can personally achieve through choice and grit (ch 20). At the community level our challenge now is to re-create the practical, enthusiastic idealism of the 21st C that developed so many local and national community and voluntary organisations. He noted the positive role the church has played in these movements, both indirectly and indirectly through building the organisational skills of its members. Particularly the more outward-looking inclusive churches, churches more concerned with developing ‘bridging capital’ than ‘bonding capital’.

WG 4.2 de-marketing, dismantling the culture of consumerism

rationale for inclusion: The marketing processes of modern business are at a level of sophistication undreamt of in previous generations. Advertising is only the tip of this iceberg – market research, motivational research, ‘sexy’ product design, packaging, product placement, viral marketing, the availability of easy credit, corporate lobbying… these are only a selection of the techniques used either to create or to shape artificial demand, create (artificial) replacement demand or create addictive or dependency-induced repeat demand.

We have to challenge the economic dogma that ‘consumer demand’ is something natural and spontaneous: Galbraith (1958) exposed that myth 50 years ago, but Governments still base their policy on it, and say environmental action should be confined to technology of production.

Powley (2011) examines how consumerism works and why it’s so hard to stop buying stuff. It introduces four practical ‘rhythms of life’ that can ‘bring us a new freedom and depth’. It sets out some alternative disciplines: creating and rest to break the 24-7 consumer crush; presence and absence instead of always needing to be connected and/or entertained; waiting and enjoying rather than buying on impulse; engaging more deeply with real life and relationships.

Sigman (2005) elaborates on how electronic communication is coming todominate our worlds: the proportion of time people are spending attending to electronic communication; impact on physical and mental development and on the quality of social life; and it’s role in ‘softening up’ people for the marketing processes and messages, which are themselves so readily available on the electronic media.

Dietz & O’Neill (2013, ch 12) cites research findings from both the social and neuro sciences on human well-being which ‘point squarely away from consumer culture’ (p161). They also cite New Economic Foundation (NEF) work summarising the evidence on methods of improving well-being:

  • maintaining close relations with family, friends, neighbour and colleagues

rel to WG 5.1 also

  • taking part in enjoyable physical activities
  • being curious, savouring the moment and being aware of what’s happening in the world
  • keeping learning, trying new challenges that would be enjoyable to achieve
  • giving, expressing gratitude and doing helpful things for others.

It will require ‘a sustained and co-ordinated effort to curtail the power of the corporations and the media, both of which exercise substantial influence over people’s lives’ (p161). The transition programme needs to be comprehensive, with multiple points of entry. Methods suggested include using marketing methods to ‘sell sound cultural values’, harnessing the power of art, personal example by demonstrating non-consumerist values while actively involved in community, recruiting influential individuals, help eliminate planned obsolescence (including fashion goods) by refusing to buy short life products, limiting marketing (following the alcohol and tobacco precedent), creating and empowering institutions that de-emphasise consumerism.

See also Seabrook (1988), Packard (1957)

The literature extracts cited above are just meant to help define the initial agenda’s for the different working groups, and to be starting points for further exploration of research and ideas. See References for Joy in Enough Working Groups. WG members will come up with different and better sources over time. Note that the different groups may operate at the different levels of society – political, parochial, personal. The first two will be more concerned with the national and international political levels, the next three may cross all three levels.

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Author: poppy | Date: 14 September, 2013 | Category: Economics | Comments: 0

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