Another post on the trend to consuming less — I sense a trend here. I came across an excellent piece on the topic by Emily Badger: Share Everything: Why the Way We Consume Has Changed Forever. It illustrates many of the themes highlighted in ConsumerShift. Perhaps foremost is that it indicates a changing relationship between consumers and consumption. At its simplest, people are questioning whether they really need to own something or can they just access it when they need it. In values terms, the modern values holder wants to possess goods to demonstrate their belonging and status. The postmoderns, and especially the integrals, are less concerned with their status – having felt they have achieved it, and thus less concerned with collecting goods and possessions. Note, I’m saying “less” concerned, not unconcerned. So the postmoderns and integrals look at sharing as an interesting option – do I really need that? Do I need to have my music physically on my device, or am I willing to pay for a subscription and have it streamed? Perhaps the prototype of sharing is ZipCar, built on the idea in the urban areas, where parking is scarce and expensive, possession is actually a pain!
The cycle aspect, for the more cynical among us, suggests we are simply returning to our roots, and that this is much ado about nothing. Even in the present, Badger notes that “we’re used to the notion of sharing libraries, public parks, and train cars.” In my work with values, almost every time I give a talk, someone suggests that postmodern/integral values are simply new versions of traditional values. Well, okay, I can see that, but the key factor is the context. Values are intimately linked to context, or life conditions to use Spiral Dynamics language. It doesn’t really work to suggest that what’s happening in 2013 urban areas is a return to medieval farming community values (or whatever the example is).
Bumping the discussion to a higher level, futurists and others have been playing with notions of what the “next” economy might look like. Descriptions such as the open-source economy, gift economy, relationship economy, attention economy, etc. At our Master’s program last Spring, we had a day-long meeting on “After Capitalism” that was inspired by student interest. Sharing, I suspect, is at the heart of what’s next. Andy Hines