Alternatives to Consumerism by vivi07


									1 Alternatives to Consumerism Professor Kasser Spring 2007 Purpose of Class: Many thinkers have criticized the manner in which consumerism, overconsumption, and profit-seeking dominate global culture. This class uses these criticisms as the starting point for an exploration of various alternatives that might lead humans toward not only a more ecologically sustainable lifestyle, but one which is also more personally enlivening and socially just. These alternatives include changes in personal lifestyles, media practices, economic organization, and social structures. We discuss not only the scholarly ramifications of these ideas, but how to act upon them in our lives and society more broadly. Philosophy of Class: We have attempted to set up this class to “practice what we preach” by making it a low consumption and alternative consumption class. We have placed multiple copies of most of the class readings on reserve in SMAC library so that you do not have to purchase books; if you do want to buy your own books, we recommend using or, both of which primarily benefit independent bookstores. We also use electronic media when possible and hope that you will read on the computer rather than printing; if you must print, please do so from the recycled paper box. All assignments will be handed in electronically to minimize paper usage. Rather than flying our guest lecturer(s) here to Galesburg, we have arranged for the speaking to be done via video-teleconference. And, as described more fully below, we have avoided the consumerist mindset of grades by making the class and all assignments graded on a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory basis. Organization of Class: This course is composed of six sections. The course commences with a brief introduction to the ideas and reflections on our own personal experiences of consumerism. We then proceed to the middle four sections, which survey alternatives at the levels of our own personal lives, media practices, economic organization, and social structures. Within each section, we will explore ideas about how life might be oriented in a less consumeristic manner. Each of the four sections will also include assignments designed to broaden our knowledge and apply the ideas to our own life. We end with a student-lead conference about actions that might be taken to provide real “alternatives to consumerism.” Course Materials:


5 books: 5 6 2 2 1

Your Money or Your Life, Voluntary Simplicity, Take Back Your Time, Hope’s Edge, & Living the Good Life articles or chapters accessible at SMAC library websites Films Virtual Guest Lectures Vegetarian Potluck Course Schedule

Part I: March 22 March 27

Setting the stage Topic: Topic: Reading: Project: Overview of syllabus Personal experience of consumerism. None Consumerography due.

Part II: March 29

Alternative lifestyles Topic: Reading: Reading: Project: Project: Personal spending habits. Dominquez & Robin, YMYL Chapters 1, 2, & 4 Pierce, Chapter 9 Begin Application project #1 Reflection paper #1 may be turned in. Voluntary Simplicity Voluntary Simplicity, Chapters 1, 2, 3, & 5 Duane Elgin, virtually Reflection paper #1 may be turned in. Discuss Application # 1 Ethical Careers Explore Application project #1 due.

April 3

Topic: Reading: Guest: Project: Topic: Topic: Website: Project:

April 5

Part III: April 10

Alternative media practices Topic: Website: Project: Topic: Website: Reading: Project: Fighting Commercial Creep Explore Reflection paper #2 may be turned in. Ethics of Culture Jamming Explore Bordwell (2002) on Adbusters - Reserve Reflection paper #2 may be turned in.

April 12

3 April 17 Topic: Website: Project: Adbusting Explore Application Project #2 - Create Anti-Ad

Part IV: April 19

Alternative Economic structures Topic: Reading: Guest: Project: Time affluence deGraaf (Ed.), Take Back Your Time, Chapters 1, 16, 20, 25, & 28 plus three others of your choice John deGraaf (virtually) Reflection paper #3 may be turned in.

April 24 April 26

NO CLASS: PROFESSOR OUT OF TOWN Topic: Website: Article: Project: Topic: Reading: Project: Topic: Topic: Website: Project: Project: Alternatives to money - National Explore; attend to GPI Dixon (2004) Gross National Happiness Reflection paper #3 may be turned in. Alternatives to money - Local Helleiner (2002) on Local Currencies - Reserve Reflection paper #3 may be turned in. Discuss Application # 3 Co-operatives Explore Application project #3 due. Reflection paper # 3 may be turned in.

May 1

May 3

Part V: May 8

Alternative social structures Topic: Website: Film: Project: Topic: Reading: Film: Project: City planning Explore Subdivide and Conquer Reflection paper #4 may be turned in. Homesteading Nearings, Living the Good Life, Chapters 1, 2, 4, 6, & 8 Nearings Reflection paper #4 may be turned in. Intentional Communities Explore & “Useful Articles” Application #4 due Food production and distribution Lappe & Lappe (2003), Hope’s Edge,

May 10

May 15

Topic: Website: Project: Topic: Reading:

May 17

4 Chapters 1, 2, & 10, plus one of your choice from Chapters 3-9. Websites: Watch movies at and Project: Reflection paper #4 may be turned in. Potluck: Bring a vegetarian meal (with recipe card) and the sustainable means to serve it. Ideally the food will be locally-grown, locally-prepared, and/or organically grown. PLAN TO STAY UNTIL 1:00 p.m. Part VI: May 22 Conclusion of class Topic: 3rd semi-annual Alternatives to Consumerism Conference – Meet in Seymour Union PLAN TO STAY UNTIL 1:00 p.m. Final Thoughts Final Thoughts Paper Due None

May 24

Topic: Project: Reading:

Means of assessment: Grades are a means of evaluating a particular individual’s performance in a class so that others in the “outside world,” particularly potential employers or graduate schools, can decide whether or not this person is “worthy” of hiring or admission. As such, grades are essentially a tool of consumer, capitalistic society and a way in which the educational system has bowed to that particular element of our social system. In our attempt to teach a class that is an “alternative to consumerism” we have therefore opted to offer it only on a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory basis. In order to receive a Satisfactory in this course, a student must receive a Satisfactory grade on all of the following assignments. If I believe that work on any of the assignments is unsatisfactory, the student will have the opportunity to continue to work on it until it reaches a satisfactory level. 1. Consumerography. Write 3 to 4 pages expressing your own thoughts and feelings about what it is like for you personally to live within “the culture of consumption.” Answer questions like the following: What are your early memories of shopping, of commercials, of the things you owned? What is it like “coming of age” surrounded by pressures to buy things? What are your own feelings about being in this culture now? How do you see yourself engaging (or disengaging) from this culture in the future? Other questions are welcome as well. 2. Three reading reflections. The purpose of these reflections is to help you apply the readings and other activities we have

5 done in the course to your life. Thus, you might reflect on how the ideas or activities we’ve encountered relate to your own experience as an individual, or you might take ideas you have learned in other classes and apply them to critique the ideas that we are reading, or you might talk about the problems of practically applying the ideas in your life or in this society. What is important in these reflections is to demonstrate that you are using the ideas presented in the readings and “taking them somewhere new.” There are four possible times where you can turn in a reading reflection, but you need only turn in papers three of those times. Each paper should be between 2 and 3 pages long. 3. Final Thoughts paper. In this 4-5 page reflection, please consider the variety of issues you have learned about in this class, how they have affected you personally, how they make you think about your current and future life, etc. 4. Four Application Projects. Project 1 From the time you wake up on March 29 until you go to bed on April 3, keep track of every cent that you spend. Record anything you purchase with cash or check, anything that you purchase with a credit card that you will pay for later, and anything you spend here at Knox that you are charging to an account (thus including meals at the Caf, purchases at the bookstore, etc.). Then categorize the expenditures into the most meaningful set of categories that best represent how you believe you have spent your money. Calculate how much was spent in each of the categories during the time period. Then, rate each level of expenditure on 3 questions, using the following scale: Question 1. Imagine that your life energy calculations have resulted in one hour of life energy being equivalent to $7.00. Did you receive fulfillment, satisfaction, and value in proportion to the life energy spent? + = received great fulfillment; increase spending 0 = expense feels okay as is; don’t change - = received little or no fulfillment; decrease spending

6 Question 2. Was this expenditure of life energy in line with your values and life purpose? + = completely in line with values; increase spending 0 = neither helps nor hurts values; don’t change - = conflicts with values; decrease spending Question 3. Is this expenditure helpful to the planet?

+ = helps planet; increase spending 0 = neither helps nor hurts planet; don’t change - = hurts planet; decrease spending Turn in a spread sheet (like Figure 4-3 or 4-4 on pages 129-131 of YMYL) that summarizes your expenditures and ratings, and then write a 3-4 page reflection on this exercise. What was it like to track of all your money? Were there any surprises about your spending habits? What did you learn from rating your spending on the three questions? b. Project 2:

Create a print Anti-ad using the ideas on the Adbusters website. Bring your anti-ad to class to share with everyone. Additionally, write a 3-4 page explanation of what the process of creating an Anti-ad taught you about how advertising and consumerism are related. After you receive feedback from the class, you will need to make five copies of your revised anti-ad to hang up around campus. c. Project 3:

Interview someone who is in college, someone who is middle aged, and someone who is retired about issues of trading material affluence for time affluence. Write a 3-4 page summary of these interviews and your reflections about people’s reactions to your questions. d. Project 4:

Find an intentional community in the Communities Directory or at that you think would best suit you. Do some additional research on this community and write a 3-4 page paper explaining what is particularly appealing to you about this group. 5. One Conference presentation


On May 22 we will have our third semi-annual conference on “Alternatives to Consumerism.” At this conference students will present to the Knox College and Knox County communities information about a topic of your choice concerning alternatives to consumerism. The material should be summarized in some visual form, ideally in a sustainable fashion (e.g., use recycled cardboard). You will be expected to stand by your display in the hallway outside the cafeterias in Seymour Union and offer explanations and answer questions for passersby during the conference. You may work in a group of up to 3 people for this assignment. Topics must be cleared with your instructor by April 19, and can either examine in greater detail a subject presented in this class or investigate something we are not examining. We are quite open to a variety of different topics and different modes of presentation (i.e., films, papers, art work, interviews, scientific investigations, policy papers, etc.). Please come and talk to me if you are having trouble deciding on a topic. Please plan to remain by your presentation until 1:00 p.m. 6. Participation Most class sessions will be discussion-based; thus, your participation in these discussions is crucial for ensuring the success of the class. A satisfactory participant speaks up in most (though not necessarily all) class sessions. A student who never speaks during regular class discussions will receive an unsatisfactory grade for participation. Throughout our discussions, each of us will be expected to show kindness, consideration and care when others are talking, while still being able to disagree and discuss constructively. In your contributions, we expect to see evidence that your thoughts and understandings are being informed by the readings and by previous discussions. We will assess your participation comments, questions, examples, experiences, and reflections by noting their relevance to the topic at hand. These contributions should demonstrate that you are reflecting and thinking about the topic. A good participant is also a good listener, disagrees in a non-attacking way, and doesn’t “hog” the floor. Attendance at all class sessions is encouraged and the consistency of your attendance will, obviously, also influence whether or not your participation is

8 satisfactory. A satisfactory participant is at most class sessions. We meet 18 times. Two absences are acceptable; this includes excused absences. For every absence over two (excused or not), two hours of documented and pre-approved community service will be necessary to make up the missed class. However, if a student accumulates more than four absences total, his/her participation will be judged as unsatisfactory.

Various notes regarding assignments Late assignments. Papers are due on the assigned date, unless otherwise announced. If they are handed in later that day, you will be required to engage in one hour of documented community service; an additional hour will be required for every additional day your paper is late. The community service must be approved beforehand by your professor. Only excused absences from the Dean are valid excuses for late papers. Paper style: College-level writing is expected on all papers. Incomplete sentences, sloppy editing, poor grammar, frequent typographical errors and the like are unacceptable and may result in the paper being considered unsatisfactory. Plagiarism. Please be sure all sentences are in your own words or fully paraphrased or quoted if you are using someone else’s ideas. If three or more words are in the same order as in the original text they must be in quotation marks and cited. Failure to put other people’s words in quotation marks (even if the source is cited) is a violation of the honor code. The following examples show what is and is not acceptable. Original Sentence: In brief, gender differences are modest in magnitude, consistent with gender stereotypes, and replicable across cultures. Plagiarized Sentence: Gender differences are consistent with gender stereotypes, replicable across cultures, and modest in magnitude. Plagiarized Sentence: Gender differences are moderate in magnitude, compatible with gender stereotypes, and consistent across cultures. Acceptable Sentence: We found that differences between genders were not very large, but did fit common stereotypes and were similar across the 26 cultures.


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