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The Modus Vivendi of Material Simplicity: Counteracting Scarcity via the Deflation of Wants

Adel Daoud

Review of Social Economy, 2011, vol. 69, issue 3, 275-305

Abstract: This paper studies how voluntary material simplicity may countervail the causal effect of relative scarcity generated by the environment of a consumer society. Analyses of both interviews and texts were performed. It is shown that voluntary material simplifiers manage, though with difficulty, to neutralize the causal effect of consumer society. This is achieved by mediating the cultural properties of the economic ethic of material simplicity, which promotes the deflation of human wants. These simplifiers consequently manage, though with difficulty due to causal interference, to deflate their material wants and maintain them below their material means. Consequently, they actualize the modus vivendi of material simplicity; namely, a practical state of relative abundance. One major implication of this study is that the scarcity postulate of mainstream economics is problematically formulated. Hence, the development of a new model of relative scarcity and abundance encourages an explanation rather than an assumption of scarcity.

Date: 2011
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DOI: 10.1080/00346764.2010.502832

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