We’re about to discuss a hot-button topic that has been known to lead to what can be politely called “heated debate” in the past. Do we have your attention and are you excited? We approach this topic with both excitement about further educating on postconsumerism and also some trepidation because the subject of whether anti-consumerism and postconsumerism can reach different audiences has been known to turn away from civilized conversation in the past. But we feel passionately that our movement can only succeed if it’s truly understood. That’s why we decided to devote this article to the topic! We hope that at the end of this, you’ll not only understand the difference between the two models of dealing with addictive consumerism but also have a greater sense of your place in the mix and how you want to craft your own journey on the path.
Let’s Start With Addressing the Problem That Both Movements Are Working to Solve
Both anti-consumerism and postconsumerism want to help cure the world of the disease we call addictive consumerism. It’s a shared goal. The impact of mass consumerism on the planet, the global economy, socio-economic growth and mental health is actually staggering. Those are just some of the effects related to the control of monetary and natural resources by a select group of corporations and wealthy individuals. Both anti-consumers and postconsumers want to help save the planet, restore self-esteem and create a happier, healthier world by giving power back to the people and teaching them that happiness and health doesn’t come from “stuff.” If you asked any postconsumer how they feel about the end goals of anti-consumerism or any anti-consumer how they feel about the end goals of postconsumerism, they’d be entirely supportive. Where the break happens is in a differing strategy on the best way to accomplish those goals and reach past the wonderful choir.
Now Let’s Go Over the Basics and Define Both Concepts
We don’t claim to be anti-consumers, so if we get this definition wrong, please feel free to let us know!
What is an anti-consumer? According to Wikipedia, it is a sociopolitical ideology that is opposed to consumerism, the continual focus on buying and consuming of material possessions. Anti-consumerism is concerned with the private actions of business corporations in pursuit of financial and economic goals at the expense of the public welfare, especially in matters of environmental protection, social stratification, and ethics in the governing of a society. At base, that’s not much different than a postconsumer except that we are “moving beyond” rather than “opposing” consumerism. An anti-consumer frequently believes that there can be no middle ground. You are either participating in the consumer culture or you are fighting against it. Anti-consumers will certainly ensure that they do not participate in things like holiday sales or brand endorsement. We don’t want to say that anti-consumers are purists, but they do tend to believe that there isn’t an intersection where consumer society and a move away from addictive consumerism can exist. One way of saying this is that they believe that the situation is so dire that there can be no middle ground or compromise, and we certainly don’t disagree about the part concerning the situation being dire. That’s why Postconsumers.com is building a national brand through marketing and advertising (using humor and irony) while anti-consumers generally shun such systems.
What is a postconsumer? A postconsumer shares almost all of the views about the destructive nature of consumerism that an anti-consumer does. However, the philosophy on the path to fix this problem is different. Postconsumers generally believe that it’s not reasonable or likely that people will just let go of consumerism altogether. They believe that everybody has to find their own comfort level with how much they buy and how much “stuff” is enough while also educating themselves about the often hidden realities of consumerism. Most importantly, postconsumers believe that the most significant part of the journey isn’t necessarily about directing anger towards the consumer establishment but rather about healing the emotional and mental wounds and holes that individuals are trying to “fill” with consumerism. “Stuff” in society has to a great extent replaced interpersonal interaction, spiritual fulfillment (there’s a reason it’s called the religion of shopping), a closeness with nature and an understanding of self. A postconsumer thinks that there’s no way to counteract all of those personal elements with the mainstream simply by “ripping off a band aid” and saying “never again!” It’s a journey through a long entanglement of emotional and mental obstacles that requires a supportive community of healing and growth.
Summary: Shared Belief. Different Strategies.
There’s more common ground between anti-consumers and postconsumers than there is differing ground. It’s just that the basic approaches on how to address the tide of consumerism are exceedingly different. One might even argue that an anti-consumer’s core belief is that to dismantle a consumer society we need to start by fighting against the corporations that market and rely on consumerism while a postconsumer believes that the change must come from a more intimate and personal place with the wider public discovering the satisfaction of enough.
Like many things, the best course of action likely is somewhere between these two philosophies. When we step back and look at it, one may be too aggressive while the other is not aggressive enough. It’s our true hope that in the years to come, as society begins to recognize that consumerism isn’t healthy for the planet or its people, a path will emerge that addresses both philosophies strongly. Until then, we’ll remain dedicated to helping you find ways to learn about and eradicate the negative impact of consumerism in the general public and your own life.
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Photo Credit: Ben Ostrowsky via Flickr