The past, the present and the past again?

Hello my sustainable consuming friends =)

Today in class we had the discussion about whether we would accept imposed sustainability laws and by whom. I think this is a highly interesting question. I brought up the example with homicide in the medieval times, but maybe slavery is an even better one, though not lesser in its cruelty. Imagine that at the peak of slavery the government would have imposed a law against slavery. Chances for this law to be successfully accepted would have been rather marginal as society was not yet ready for it. People really thought that slavery was ethically correct and they couldn’t imagine it otherwise. Many years would have to follow until voices on the anti-slavery side were loud enough to cause a general rethinking of this issue. And then it was the right point in time for authorities to formulate new laws that were also legitimized by society. If you nail it down it actually was a necessary development, because society would not have functioned in this way over a longer period of time. I think one thing to learn from history is that even though we take certain things for granted or believe that they are right this may change in the future. But it is hard to imagine as it takes time and effort to change the mindset of a society. At the moment the problem is that many people don’t see sustainable behavior as a necessary requirement for our society to function. But very likely the time will come and just like a contagious disease new ways of thinking will infiltrate the minds, leading to a collective change of mindset among wider society which will culminate in the formulation of new legitimized laws for the benefit of society. And I think that the role of sustainability marketing in this whole process comes as an accelerating one. It helps to inform and create awareness for the topic, which will most likely accelerate the change within society. But of course it’s only one among many factors.

Some when during the lecture we were asked to think about other or additional roles of consumption. But I think it’s even more interesting to think about the evolution of the roles, as not every role of consumption existed from the very beginning. Or at least the importance of certain roles changed over time. Actually, the more I think about it the more I believe that all the roles existed already long time ago. And even though the ‘shopaholic’ disease is a rather new phenomenon in consumer behavior research, it also might have existed in a weaker or different form, without having a name. I think it could be quite an interesting research topic to examine this evolution. Different kinds of parameters like social norms, the role of money or the time, security and comfort factors could be examined throughout different epochs of time and what impact they had on the roles of consumption. This could also help to develop future consumption scenarios by taking reactions to certain parameters from the past to the future.

Both of my comments were referring to the past. I think that we can learn a lot by looking back over the shoulder of mankind, but also one has to be careful in bringing those learnings into the present or project them into the future. Things happened under very specific conditions in specific contexts and it is impossible to understand them in every detail. The past won’t repeat itself.

Thanks for the cool discussions in class,

Jörg

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