Confronting Consumption

Confronting Consumption

Edited by Thomas Princen, Michael Maniates and Ken Conca





Comforting terms such as "sustainable development" and "green production" frame environmental debate by stressing technology (not green enough), economic growth (not enough in the right places), and population (too large). Concern about consumption emerges, if at all, in benign ways; as calls for green purchasing or more recycling, or for small changes in production processes. Many academics, policymakers, and journalists, in fact, accept the economists' view of consumption as nothing less than the purpose of the economy. Yet many people have a troubled, intuitive understanding that tinkering at the margins of production and purchasing will not put society on an ecologically and socially sustainable path.

Confronting Consumption places consumption at the center of debate by conceptualizing "the consumption problem" and documenting diverse efforts to confront it. In Part 1, the book frames consumption as a problem of political and ecological economy, emphasizing core concepts of individualization and commoditization. Part 2 develops the idea of distancing and examines transnational chains of consumption in the context of economic globalization. Part 3 describes citizen action through local currencies, home power, voluntary simplicity, "ad-busting," and product certification. Together, the chapters propose "cautious consuming" and "better producing" as an activist and policy response to environmental problems. The book concludes that confronting consumption must become a driving focus of contemporary environmental scholarship and activism.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262162081 392 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$40.00 X ISBN: 9780262661287 392 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


Thomas Princen

Thomas Princen explores ecological and economic sustainability at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Treading Softly: Paths to Ecological Order and The Logic of Sufficiency (both published by the MIT Press).

Michael Maniates

Michael Maniates is Professor of Political Science and Environmental Science at Allegheny College. He is the coeditor, with Thomas Princen and Ken Conca, of Confronting Consumption (MIT Press, 2002).

Ken Conca

Ken Conca is Associate Professor of Government and Politics and Director of the Harrison Program on the Future Global Agenda at the University of Maryland.


  • A Comprehensive analysis of how and why consumer society wreaks havoc on Earth.

  • excellent exploration of what could turn out to be one of the frontrank issues of our time.

    Norman Myers


  • Are you willing to confront consumption?...then read this book.

    Vicki Robin

    Journal of Positive Futures

  • The authors are to be commended for breaking the code of silence surrounding consumption and engaging the debate.

    Richard Walthers

    Green @ Work Magazine

  • The book certainly succeeds in thinking 'outside the box'...

    Global Environmental Politics


  • The issue of excessive, careless, and ignorant consumption has been conspicuously absent in all the talk about sustainability. No longer! These essays break new conceptual ground and clarify the dynamics of consumption with intellectual honesty and political boldness. The authors aim to transform consumption from mindless and destructive to mindful and regenerative. This is a vitally important book!

    David W. Orr

    Environmental Studies Program, Oberlin College

  • This book is important not just for its brilliance but for its rarity: few environmental scholars have dared to take on this issue in a manner that goes beyond rhetorical posturing and 'limits to growth' type arguments.

    Lamont C. Hempel

    Hedco Professor of Environmental Studies and Director of Environmental Programs, University of Redlands

  • Consumption deserves serious attention. This volume moves the literature beyond the work of a few isolated scholars and consumption activists to a collective enterprise of solid researchers critiquing and building on each other's contributions. Long overdue, but worth waiting for.

    Richard B. Norgaard

    University of California, Berkeley

  • Confronting Consumption provides a fresh new look at the systemic problems of consumption in the global economy. It offers a highly readable account of the impacts of consumerism on our vulnerable planetary resources and asks whether a sustainable consumption movement may be emerging. Scholars, teachers, and activists alike will be enriched by the book's analysis and inspired by new possibilities for confronting the complexities of consumption.

    Carolyn Merchant

    Professor of Environmental History, Philosophy, and Ethics, University of California, Berkeley, author of Radical Ecology: The Search for a Livable World and Earthcare: Women and the Environment

  • A dynamic, vital book that takes your breath away! Confronting Consumption shows why consumption is the blockbuster problem that our society can no longer ignore. Readers will feel real excitement as they explore this stimulating book and will begin to understand why thousands of people in the Simplicity movement are turning their backs on 'getting and spending' and reclaiming 'the good life'—building lives of high satisfaction and low environmental impact in a caring and just community.

    Cecile Andrews

    author of The Circle of Simplicity

  • This book addresses, to spectacular effect, the great silence about the vast appetite for resources in contemporary North America. These wide-ranging analyses of consumerism successfully bring together the cultural and the ecological, the structural and the symbolic, the local and the global. They join rights to responsibilities and ethics to public policy. In terms of both vision and execution, this is a landmark volume.

    Ramachandra Guha

    author of Environmentalism: A Global History


  • 2003 Harold and Margaret Sprout Award presented by the International Studies Association (ISA)