“Once we’ve thrown off our habitual paths, we think all is lost; but it’s only here that the new and the good begins.” ~ Leo Tolstoy
In their article “Addressing Sustainability and Consumption” Anja Schaefer and Andrew Crane refer to the notion of the dominant social paradigm (Kilburn 1998), which in today’s affluent societies is one promoting consumption as a socially and culturally meaningful activity. Schaefer and Crane discuss the necessity of a rethinking at all levels of society in terms of sustainability. The article discusses various views of consumption (rational, choice and information processing vs sociological and anthropological conceptualizations as the main directions) and acknowledges that what ever the means to achieve more sustainable ways of consumption, the social and cultural functions of consumption should not be overlooked as they are an important part of current consumption in affluent cultures.
A more popularized version of the concept of ‘dominant social paradigm’ is presented in a book I’m currently reading. Monoculture by F.S.Michaels introduces an idea that in societies there is one master story told at a time. Naturally there are other stories as well, but the master story is a larger cultural story, the one setting the pace. This master story then becomes a monoculture. F.S.Michaels claims that the master story of the twenty-first century is economic. The economic story is the one we live immersed in, perhaps so deeply that it is impossible for us to see it, and to see how deeply it affects us.
Which ever way we want to call it, a dominant social paradigm or a master story, I can agree with all the aforementioned authors that the story of our lives and our times is one about economy and consumption. That is clear now and it might be even more clearer when looked back from the future. What interests me more, though, is the next story. It might involve economy and consumption, or it might be something more radically different from the current one. I have a feeling it might be nice if it was about sustainability (if there’s going to be any story told). How it is told and when are we starting to tell it, remains unseen.