This article by Ethan Goffman is part of a series of articles drawing inspiration and ideas from the 2016 SCORAI conference that has just been happening in Maine, USA. Enjoy the reading!

Transitions Beyond a Consumer Society, SCORAI Conference Blog # 5

Continuing the foray into the personal aspects of consumption discussed at the 2016 SCORAI Conference, a panel on “Accounting for Everyday Life” examined our relationship to time.  When we think of time as a scarce commodity, we maximize our use of it and hence tend to produce more and consume more.  Contrarily, if we see time as abundant, as the ocean in which we float and swim enjoying daily life, we tend to consume less and, perhaps, enjoy life more.  This, at least, is my simplified version of the panel’s main theme, exemplified in a paper given by Mikko Jalas.  He discussed the definition of home economics based on a 1965 model that saw “households as mini-factories” that produce goods and purchase services.  This is the ultimate reduction of the family from the site of wellbeing and happiness to one of modernist commodification.  On the other side are habits of everyday life based on such leisurely activities as eating or taking trips together. “Wellbeing and happiness” are based on sufficiency, Jalas argued, but we “cannot purchase” them because they are inherent to everyday life.

Everyday life is informed by habits that can be sustainable or can be energy intensive, as Xinfang Wang discussed.  As with Jalas, home for Wang should be a haven, yet daily life is also subject to “a continuous project” of socialization.  Thus, our habits, even when leisurely, can be harmful, such as taking long, hot showers.  The fact that we “don’t make new decisions every time” means that we often “lock in energy-intensive practices.”  Putting together Jalas and Wang, then, it is best to combine a leisurely version of time and family with a strong consciousness of the impact of daily practices, approaches that could be conceived of as contrary.  In our modern society, perhaps one needs to be conscious of the need to leave consciousness aside, to purposely shape our daily routines around periods of purposelessness (albeit low-energy-use purposelessness).

Read more at From Everyday Life to Community Values | SSPP Blog.