Communally living the positive alternative

Bekin, Caroline; Szmigin, Isabelle and Carrigan, Marylyn (2008). Communally living the positive alternative. In: Gandolfi, Franco and Cherrier, Helene eds. Downshifting: A Theoretical and Practical Approach to Living a Simple Life. UK: ICFAI University Press, pp. 135–161.


In this chapter we examine, through ethnographic research data, whether downshifting behaviour is possible within UK alternative community lifestyles, how it is manifested, and whether it may be considered a form of resistance to consumer culture in such a context. Contrary to our expectations, and although a few individuals within the examined communities still presented anti-consumer culture discourses, the communal and most individual approaches to discourses and practices encompassing downshifting and ethical consumption were not about resisting, but about living a positive alternative. By conceptually viewing these communities as ‘positive alternatives’, we can understand their production, consumption, consumption avoidance as well as their disposal practices not as attempts to escape, resist or subvert the market, but as collective efforts to redress what they perceive as the shortcomings of consumer culture, the marketplace and their effects on people’s everyday lives. It allows us to view the communities’ move toward finding positive solutions as aligned with a ‘positive psychology’ approach (Seligman 2005), whereby the focus on the desired positive outcomes will improve the meaning and quality of life of those involved in downshifting projects.

Viewing alternatives

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