Alternative Hedonism

05 Jan, 2021

Thoughts on The Trouble with Consumption - Kate Soper.

Alternative hedonism is a view on the consumer opposing the liberal as well as the marxist analysis of this persona. While still being political, it focuses on the implications and reasons of concious consumption. The liberal analysis positions the consumer as the rationalist, practicing consumption with calculation and always towards the self. Marxist theory, on the other hand, sees the consumer as the victim of the market, unable to make own decisions.

Both viewpoints incapacitate the consumer.

“In neither liberal nor Marxist theories are consumers understood to be responsible agents, accountable to the world beyond their personal concerns.”

In alternative hedonism the consumer is seen from their own point of view, as a responsible being that makes informed decisions and having the outside (environement, justice) and the inside (pleasure, self-actualisation) in mind. That also means, that consumption must be analysis from the personal towards the public - a bottom up approach.

“[The] focus is neither on consumption as a bid for personal distinction, nor on consumption as a relatively unconscious”form of life,” but instead on the ways in which a range of contemporary consumerist practices, more or less everyday and identityoriented, are being brought into question because of their environmental consequences, their impact on health, and their constraints on sensual enjoyment and more spiritual forms of well-being.”

Kate Soper goes into the details, in how top-down approaches (state regulations and ethics) can support alternative hedonism in it’s development. The political aspect is probably better outlined in the book, from which this text is just a chapter.

The thoughts outline this text are rich in inspiration, adding to the vocabulary of economic analysis and opening up new path to go forward. Consumption, like technological development, will go forward. Neither liberal nor marxist analysis take the human in it’s entire reality, but often work with abstract entities. Using the actual person as a starting point is very close to design reasearch and ethnography.