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Monday, January 2nd, 2012 . 11:00 am | No Comments

Altering attitudes—From a Culture of Consumerism to a Culture of Prosperity

Stefanie Wahl, Managing Director of “Denkwerk Zukunft – Foundation for Cultural Renewal” together with Meinhard Miegel and Martin Schulte has published a policy paper which shows how a change in attitudes can lead to a change in behaviour. The latter is necessary because the Western culture of consumerism is disintegrating. Ongoing economic growth and maximisation of material wealth are prerequisites in ensuring that this culture continues. But in the future, material wealth will decline across broad sections of society. On the one hand, the generations-long exploitation of natural resources and the environment, and also of people and society, has reached its limits. On the other, in today’s ageing societies both production capacity and the willingness to embrace risk are on the decline. In addition, material wealth can no longer be upheld by taking on ever more debt.
Stefanie Wahl
Stefanie Wahl, Managing Director of “Denkwerk Zukunft – Foundation for Cultural Renewal” © Denkwerk Zukunft

Any decline in consumption and the maximisation of material wealth could cause considerable unrest. If this is to be avoided or at least alleviated, the principles of individual happiness and the ability of the society to function must be adapted to the altered conditions. The perceptions of wealth must be broadened. Non-material factors must be given greater importance: taking time for oneself and for others, and also taking time to enjoy nature and the arts, to learn new things and broaden one’s horizons, or perhaps to learn a new language, to play sports, to relax and do nothing, or to become involved in local politics or community activities.

For such a broader perception of wealth, economic practices and lifestyles that are incomparably more sustainable than a culture of consumerism must be adopted Society must develop these lifestyles by means of an open, broad-based search process. They must be supported by the media, the education sector and non-governmental organisations to help people develop the skills and abilities they need to lead fulfilled lives with less things. Given the short timeframe, the switch from material to less-material perceptions and behaviours must be driven by the state. It must break down the barriers that stand in the way of non-material living, end promotion of resource-intensive economic practices and lifestyles, and intensify measures aimed at reducing resource use.

Read more in the following paper:
“Altering attitudes: From a culture of consumerism to a culture of prosperity”

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