The Steady State Economy Conference

Workshop 7: Changing Behaviour (the Psychology of Consumerism)

Question: How can behaviour that is supportive of a steady state economy be encouraged?

Why: Although the majority of the workshops in this conference focus on building a new “sustainable macroeconomics”, this is only half the battle. The other half is to address the social logic of consumerism, which is one of the main drivers of economic growth. The desire to “keep up with the Joneses”, which is driven on by advertising and inequality, leads to unhealthy status competition, and thus to higher levels of material consumption than are necessary to satisfy people’s real needs.

How: Some approaches that have been proposed to shift behaviour away from material consumption include: limiting advertising (particularly to children and in public spaces), reducing inequality, providing support for public media, promoting more durable products, removing incentives that promote status competition, and establishing structures that allow people to participate fully in society in less materialistic ways.

David Fell    David Fell (Speaker)

David Fell is director and co-founder of the London-based research and strategy consultancy Brook Lyndhurst. An economist with more than 20 years’ experience for clients in the government, private and not-for-profit sectors, his work is concerned with the development of strategies for promoting changes in individual and institutional behaviour to bring about a more sustainable economy. In recent years he has explored the nature of a ‘green economy’; how future lifestyles might impact on the environment; how new environmental behaviours do or do not diffuse through populations; and the ‘economics of enough’.

Lucie Middlemiss    Lucie Middlemiss (Chair)

Lucie Middlemiss is a Lecturer in Sustainability at the University of Leeds in the Sustainability Research Institute. Her research explores the boundary between social and environmental issues: in other words she wants to know how environmental problems and policy affect people, and how people can in turn affect environmental problems. Recent projects have looked at community groups working on sustainability, as well as fuel poverty and the impact of schools on climate change. Lucie also teaches on BA and MSc courses, including a specialist module in sustainable consumption.

David Midgley    David Midgley (Rapporteur)

David Midgley studied philosophy at Manchester, Oxford and York and was founding Director of Jamyang Buddhist Centre Leeds, where he continues to teach Buddhist philosophy and meditation. In 2007 he founded Schumacher North, an independent public education organisation working to promote a holistic philosophy of society based on the ideas of E.F. Schumacher, noted economist and author of Small is Beautiful. With his colleagues in Schumacher North, David is active in working for a new vision of economic life based on non-violent economics, human-scale social organisation and reconnection to the natural world.

Download the Proposal          Download a discussion paper by Michael Narberhaus