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Slowing down the urge for consumption: Materialism, Voluntary Simplicity and Degrowth
Considering the relationship between consumption and sustainability, we can notice that, in most countries, compulsion to participate in consumer society is no longer resultant from a material need, but from the popular belief that to find happiness is necessary to be richer, regardless of how much wealth an individual already has (Hamilton, 2010). The consumption is no longer connected to the fulfillment of material demands, but as a method of creating personal identity, what causes many of environmental problems currently experienced (Schneider; Kallis; Martínez-Alier, 2010). To reverse this trend, we need a severe change on consumer lifestyle. This paper aims to discuss how consumer position him/herself in relation to voluntary reduction of consumption (the degrowth), analyzing the relationship between consumer’s attitude, intention and behavior regarding that issue. Degrowth is a useful addition to the vocabulary of social and environmental sciences that has been emerging in the academy in the last few years. This study assumes degrowth concept as “an equitable downscaling of production and consumption that increases human well-being and enhances ecological conditions at the local and global level, in the short and long term” (Schneider; Kallis; Martínez-Alier; 2010). Degrowth goes through the transformation of materialistic attitude and behavior towards voluntary simplicity. We believe that, to implement degrowth, is necessary to know the attitude and behavior of the consumer in relation to the reduction of consumption aiming to prioritize actions for a smooth transition, that could be accepted by the market. The theoretical framework of this research is based on Ajzen & Fishbein’s Theory of Planned Behaviour (1975; 1980, 2005), to whom behavior is a function of attitude, subjective norms and perceived behavioral control. To achieve this goal, we performed a survey as method of data collection using scales about materialism, voluntary simplicity and perceptions about degrowth, and will be analysed by Factor Analysis and Structural Equation Modelling. As results, we expect to confirm the hypotheses that attitude, as well as voluntary simplicity behaviors, are positively related to the intention of engaging to degrowth; and, subjective norms and perceived behavioral control, as well as materialistic behaviors, are negatively related to the intention of engaging to degrowth. We expect that in the end of this work the connection between degrowth and marketing has been established, emerging a new concept: the “degrowth marketing”. Degrowth marketing would be the establishment of marketing strategies related to the voluntary reduction of production and consumption. There is room for new work on the profile of a society with much less material consumption, especially in countries where industrialization continues to trail strong paths (Martínez-Alier et al., 2010). How positive would be if instead of being imposed by an economic crisis, degrowth would actually be a democratic and collective decision?