Jan 31 2012
Most of our texts this semester have had a pessimistic view and implied that consumerism is going to be the (unavoidable) downfall of American society. However, the case studies within “Sustainable Lifestyles and the Quest for Plenitude” gave a more hopeful look at the future of consumerism in the United States. We tend to think that we need to buy to be happy, although the self-sustainers within this book are all totally satisfied not engaging in modern-day consumerism. If we have learned anything this semester it’s to not always assume that consumerism is helping the economy, but the people in this book definitely seem to be having a positive impact.
Sustainable Lifestyles and the Quest for Plenitude: Case Studies of the New Economy by Schor and Thompson is characterized by an array of case studies that hope to combat some of our society’s environmental and economic issues. These issues include man-made climate change because of fossil fuels, inequality and low job security. The case studies outlined by the authors are small-scale examples of plenitude, or trying to undergo social transformation to promote larger-scale changes. These may be groups of people consuming raw milk or people spending more time engaging in environmentally friendly approaches to their jobs. The message that the authors are trying to convey is that plenitude and sustainable lifestyles can lead way to broader social change and greater economic autonomy, effectively connecting consumer-citizens to the bigger picture through their localized actions.
Sustainable Lifestyles and the Quest for Plentitude: Case Studies of the New Economy is extremely interesting and useful in stretching our minds beyond modern assumptions of reliance on capitalism. However, it is also quite verbose, no fun to read and difficult to digest. One of my favorite topics was that of Chicago’s Experiment Station. Due to language I felt this and other issues come across as overly complex – to be understood and dealt with by trained social scientists only. I believe there is a way to include the greater public in the conversation, and books such as this one isolate a very interesting and crucial discussion to the academic world.
I liked ending the semester of reading with Sustainable Lifestyles and the Quest for Plenitude. This book gives a good insight on to what the work is working to be towards, whether it is looking at small local economies to try and promote going greener and lessening the footprint that is currently in the world or trying to get peers involved in the initiative. This book also talks about how lessening the footprint is hindered by Government and bigger economy. The specific case studies help to show how smaller areas of the world are working to make a more “sustainable lifestyle”. It is also interesting how Juliet Schor did many studies on different aspect of the world and the economy and places in the world to see how hard many are working to help make the world better and how beneficial these changes could be.
I think this book was a very important read, because it concerns how the economy affects our environment. I’ve read and studied so many things on how we are slowly killing our world through carbon emissions it’s interesting to know there are places throughout the world that are concentrating on a low carbon foot print. But will this actually make a change for us? The very few people that are actually trying to save this world are wholly outnumbered by the people who just do not care, and it is worrisome, because I am one of them. I am too busy to put much effort into caring about buying a low emission car and I even know global warming is an issue, people out there don’t think its a thing. They think its debatable and it’s absolutely ludicrous, because the facts aren’t debatable, we need to help clean up our world or our world will fail.
Reading, Sustainable Lifestyles and the Quest for Plentitude, as the last reading for this semester has been a good closing in learning about trends in consumerism in America and how we can move towards promoting a more sustainable society and economy. The case studies of this book provide hope that we can change the direction and move away from our materialistic views to achieve a more sustainable and humane economy. From places all across the U.S. and the world, Schor and Thompson are able to demonstrate how individuals are putting in the effort to decrease our ecological footprint and improve our quality of life. For example, through small-scale farms, individuals are seeing the benefits in their community and these benefits can apply to us globally as well. However, although we are beginning to see an increase in local efforts, without concerted efforts of the governments and big businesses we cannot save our environment. Through social efforts and connections, we can build political power to promote a change in our behaviors on this planet. Through this book, we begin to see that change is possible, even if it starts with small, local changes. Changes in our society and economy will be felt through these inventive “localist” approaches of these case studies.
This reading consists of four chapters, each about a different well known corporation in the American market. The chapters cover Nike, Ben & Jerry’s, Starbucks and Patagonia. A brief history is given which places each company in its own economic, social and political context, followed by an analysis of how each marketed its product using unique cultural connections. It was fascinating reading about these very different companies and some of the psychology they employ in their advertising. It was also interesting comparing the companies’ values and motivations and how these influenced their marketing and sales.
While looking at the “utopian urban planning schemes”, it is interesting to see how many African Americans lived in the ghetto. It is even more interesting to see how the economy of the ghetto started out by being led by gangs, which sold drugs and the growing rates of violence and criminality that comes with the concentrated social problems. With the media looking on at the social problems and broadcasting it to the public, this often presented problems for African American males, but was appealing to suburban white males. This is what compelled Nike to market to them; this could give African Americans some type of sports success to “level” the “playing field”. Michael Jordan, who grew up in a middle class family, didn’t have the chance to break out of the hood, but it is interesting to see how “Jordans” are targeting these same types of boys now to have success selling shoes or marketing at all. It is also interesting looking at other athletes and their struggles faced with marketing, such as females. Females have different types of marketing with the “Just Do It” campaign.
Nike was the perfect brand for the 1980s. The politics that swept the country at the time made Americans feel like they needed to live a certain lifestyle and have the accompanying goods. Nike took advantage of this through its advertising. Sports were (and still are) seen as something for everyone to do. Athletic success depends largely on hard work, not social standing. In 1988, Nike produced a series of ads that depicted people overcoming odds to succeed in their sports, and hinted that it was possible through Nike products. I thought it was a really clever way to convince people that they needed Nikes.
Nike’s history doesn’t seem to be taught as frequently as Under Armour’s. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I find it interesting that this book highlighted Nike over UA, considering the latter’s has a tale of “heroic” entrepreneurialism. However, I did appreciate the history of marketing, particularly behind, “just do it.” It takes away from the shoe giving you an ability, straying away from the Michael Jordan appeal. “Just Do It” implies that humans can do anything, despite handicaps.
American feelings of nationalism change with time, and the nature of companies reflecting this is important to study. Solo Willpower calls upon individuals, and isn’t nationality specific. During the spring of 2012, I visited Barcelona and was surprised to see a Nike store amongst the cobblestoned city center. Gone are Nike’s post war and Title IX battles. Anyone can be good, as long as they are wearing Nikes. However, I was surprised at the most recent World Cup that Adidas still dominates the soccer market – as soccer is supposedly the most watched and internationally renowned sport.
Somehow, Nike escapes the accusations that Adidas has not, with sweat shops and to my knowledge, school’s haven’t fought to have their bookstores cut ties with Nike. (Northeastern University students petitioned this, and won in April 2013. In this respect, Nike remains superior in the eyes of consumers.