Defying marketing sovereignty: voluntary simplicity at New Consumption Communities

Bekin, Caroline; Carrigan, Marylyn and Szmigin, Isabelle (2005). Defying marketing sovereignty: voluntary simplicity at New Consumption Communities. Qualitative Market Research: an international journal, 8(4) pp. 413–429.



Purpose – To broaden the scope of our knowledge of collective voluntarily simplified lifestyles in the UK, by exploring whether voluntary simplifiers achieve their goals by adopting a simpler life.
Design/methodology/approach – Radical forms of voluntary simplifier groups were explored through participant-observation research. The methodology can be broadly classified as critical ethnography, and a multi-locale approach has been used in designing the field.
Findings – Although for some of these consumers voluntary simplicity seems to have reinstated the enjoyment of life, certain goals remain unfulfilled and other unexpected issues arise, such as the challenges of mobility in the attainment of environmental goals.
Research limitations/implications – This is an ongoing research, however many opportunities for further research have arisen from this study. Quantitative research could be undertaken on the values and attitudes buttressing voluntary simplicity specifically in the UK. The extent to which such communities influence mainstream consumers could be studied both quantitatively and qualitatively. Mainstream consumers' attitudes to the practices of such communities could prove useful for uncovering real consumer needs.
Practical implications – Despite these communities position in the extreme end of the voluntary simplicity spectrum, their role in shaping the practices and attitudes of other consumers is clear.
Originality/value – This paper provides new consumer insights that can re-shape policy-making and marketing practice aimed at achieving a sustainable future.

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