Can minimalism be marketed? Part two, or, a clarification

I may be a pessimist, but the philosophy of anti-thrift just now coming into being seems to me the greatest danger to the peace of the world.
~Adriano Tilgher

I have problems with the usual error. Apparently this was doubly true on Saturday. So I’ll try and clear things up today, and touch upon a few points others made in the comments.

Everyone who commented was exactly correct: marketed minimalism, consuminimalism, “minimalism,” whatever you’d like to call it, isn’t a real minimalist lifestyle. I say minimalist lifestyle since there’s also minimalism in art and decor. The latter would be the easiest way to market minimalism, and is the one I hit hardest on Saturday.

But what I was getting at was that despite the fact that no, you cannot buy yourself minimalist, it will nevertheless be sold. As minimalism. It won’t be minimalism, just like Taco Bell is not Mexican nor food. But Taco Bell is marketed as Mexican food. So are places like Casa Ole and Chipotle. In fact, these pseudo-Mexican places are so damn prevalent people occasionally become shocked or confused when they encounter authentic Mexican food. Ditto with Chinese cuisine. Don’t go into a dim-sum restaurant and expect chicken fried rice. If “minimalism” does go mainstream, some people will embrace an actual minimalist lifestyle. But I don’t think the majority of people will go beyond the thought of “awesome mod furniture.” People are dumb that way. I was trying to think of something that couldn’t be twisted into a marketable product. I thought to myself, “Frugality! There is no way to market frugality!” That thought was immediately followed by my realization that I was committing the usual error again (by assuming my definition of frugality is everyone’s) and by the horrid thought that they’ve already marketed “frugality.”

Craig did bring up a good point that I failed to think of. “The quote from Becoming Minimalist assumes that the current societal ‘norm’ and way of doing things continues as it is, that consumerism continues to not be considered undesirable by the general population, and it’s hard to say whether that will be the case 10, 20, 30 years from now when you take possible major issues into account, such as the potential for oil to become prohibitively expensive. People are already starting to become more aware of, and concerned with, the impact that a non-minimalist way of life impact the planet, and ultimately the lives of people who have to live on it. For many it’s easier to continues as they have, but there is a small and, I think, growing number that *are* changing their habits. Maybe one day they will be a significant part of the population. … The stories you hear about people who lived through the great depression scrimping, saving and hoarding for the rest of their lives is probably a good example of something like this.”

I do have to admit that both Becoming Minimalist and I based our ideas on the status quo remaining quo. And while I certainly hope that’s not the case, I do have to take the pessimistic view and say probably not. I just don’t see the extremes now that were seen during the Great Depression, although this again could be bias from the History Channel only picking the extremes as examples of the Depression. And while many did continue their actually-frugal habits, said habits were quickly shrugged off by the next few generations.

We’re in an unusual, and I think unprecedented, era. I don’t think anyone can accurately predict if we’ll continue on our current path or if we’ll change. Sadly, I think an extrapolation from the past few decades will yield the most accurate results, but all we can really do is just wait and see.

I really find this interesting…what’s everyone’s take on this?

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One Response to “Can minimalism be marketed? Part two, or, a clarification”

  1. Craig Says:

    I think you’re probably right that circumstances like the great depression are unlikely, but you can never be sure. If, to continue with my oil example, oil does ‘go away’ (whatever the reason) and we haven’t found a way around that, you can bet that we will most likely see societies around the world implode on themselves in some pretty horrible ways. You can bet that people will start to focus on minimalism at times like that. There will probably also be some interesting innovations come from something like that as well, but lets hope it doesn’t come to something as drastic as that.

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