Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Rationalization of Pleasure and Emotions: The Analysis of the Blogs of Polish Minimalists

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Rationalization of Pleasure and Emotions: The Analysis of the Blogs of Polish Minimalists

Article excerpt

Introduction

In this article we focus on consumption practices of Polish minimalists whose objective is to consume less. A starting point to an analysis of consumer practices of minimalists will consist of the western literature on ethical consumption in which the motives and meanings of alternative consumer practices were studied. The term of ethical consumption indicates that the moral dimension is what connects them. Not only one's needs and desires are taken into account in consumer practices, but also responsibility for the others. Such an attitude relates to the concept of life politics by Anthony Giddens. It is indeed often cited by the researchers. The practices and motives of Polish minimalists are clearly contrasting against this backdrop. The moral dimension is of no importance for minimalists. They are inclined to practice so called anti-consumption by their biographical experiences: they grew up in the late period of People's Poland, when the scarcity of goods pushed the people towards buying whatever was available and therefore they hadn't developed self-control in the aspect of consumer choices. As a result, current minimalists felt overwhelmed by the excess of things after the political transformation, which led them to rationalize the area of consumption. Anti-consumerism of Polish minimalists cannot be placed in the scope of ethical consumption, it is an alternative consumption attitude shaped by the local post-socialist economic and political context. It can be said that minimalism is the next step in the process of rationalization of a contemporary man. Other theoretical concepts will prove useful to understand it, especially the theory of rationalization by Max Weber and the complimenting theory of modern hedonism by Colin Campbell. Before we proceed to analyze consumer practices of Polish minimalists, we will present the meaning and motives of ethical consumption in western countries to better understand the wider context of the formation of such practices and to compare it with the situation of Polish minimalists. Later we will discuss the theories by Weber and Campbell, i.e. the tools used to interpret the practices of minimalists. Next we are going to explain why we have used the blogs written by the minimalists to study their consumer practices.

The Ethical Turn in Consumer Culture

Nowadays many fields are engaged in scholarship around the question of consumer ethics, as we witness the ethical turn in consumer culture (Lewis & Potter 2011). Since the early 2000s there has been a significant increase in the number and visibility of initiatives and movements campaigning around such issues as green and sustainable consumption, fair trade, corporate social responsibility, anti-consumerism (Lury 2011). As such, the notion of ethical consumption is very broad, containing at the same time radical anti-consumerist attitudes as well as various kinds of ethical choices of consumers, for example buying organic products. Moreover, on the one hand the notion refers to bottom-up initiatives of groups of activists, and on the other hand ethical consumption is stimulated by top-down greenwashing and profit-seeking actions of corporations or ideas of sustainability propagated by experts and institutions (Littler 2011). Kim Humphery (2009) claims that the ethical dimension is a central paradox of everyday consumption practices in post-industrial societies: a huge propensity to buy coexists with distaste for overconsumption. People grumble about the excess of commodities and feel anger at 'intrusion' of the market into their lives (Humphery 2009). Thus the ethical choice concerns reevaluation of what it is to consume, how to consume and what to consume (Sassatelli 2007). Being ethical combines individual choice with responsibility to others, both humans and non-humans (Barnett, Cloke, Clarke & Malpass 2005). Therefore, ethical consumption it is "a reaffirmation of the moral dimension of ethical choice" (Lury 2011:172). …

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