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Publicity and downshifters

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Thursday, Aug 18, 2005

A comment on my post from yesterday inspired me to clarify further my response to Schor’s description of “downshifters”. I don’t think these “downshifters,” people who self-consciously try to consume less, are making matters in the consumption society worse; it’s just that I wonder whether we lack a way to talk about them without playing into the hands of the forces that create the hyperconsumer world—our public discourse may be so shaped by consumer practice and its values (via ads and passive entertainment and gizmo fetishes and so on which all celebrate acquisition and direct personal interaction toward social comparisons and shopping talk) that to talk about those who reject those values inevitably calls up our skepticism, immediately makes those people seem suspect. I’m as inclined as anyone to want to sympathize with downshifters, but I found myself thinking they seemed pretentious—perhaps it is hard to publicize the noble things anyone does without the act of publicity itself tainting the noble deed and cheapening it.

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