Consumerism promises a shortcut to a 'better' life through the accumulation of certain fashionable goods and experiences. Over recent decades, this has resulted in a rising tide of cheap, short-lived goods produced, used and discarded in increasingly rapid cycles, along the way depleting resources and degrading environmental systems.
Somebody Else’s Problem calls for a radical change in how we think about our material world, and how we design, make and use the products and services we need. Rejecting the idea that individuals alone are responsible for the environmental problems we face, it challenges us to look again at the systems, norms and values we take for granted in daily life, and their cumulative role in our environmental crisis.
Robert Crocker presents an overview of the main forces giving rise to modern consumerism, looks closely at today’s accelerating consumption patterns and asks why older, more ‘custodial’ patterns of consumption are in decline. Avoiding simplistic quick-fix formulas, the book explores recommendations for new ways of designing, making and using goods and services that can reduce our excess consumption, but still contribute to a good and meaningful life.
Robert Crocker has written a stunning and provocative book – one of the best books on design, consumption and waste I have read in recent years. The reader is rewarded with a convincing argument, thoughtful observations and valuable reflections on human behavior. He shows convincingly that neither technological innovation alone, nor the operation of the market, can fix our environmental crisis unless we face the larger problem of consumerism. Bravo!
Somebody Else’s Problem is a timely and provocative critique of the "inherently escalatory" nature of contemporary consumerism. Robert Crocker argues persuasively that the failure of consumerism to deliver its promise of a good life is rooted in the lack of an "end point" at which consumers feel that they acquired enough. This suggests a moral dilemma and yet, far from pointing a critical finger at consumers, the author recognises that the problem is "collective, social and global" and should lead to reflection upon how the world around us has been designed. He thus exposes the profound responsibility of the designer to contribute to the reshaping of societal values and goals.
Robert Crocker's new book confronts consumerism head-on and tackles the difficult questions elegantly and convincingly. His arguments and insights are informed and contribute to a deeper understanding of how design, sustainability and marketing inter-relate to create some of the most complex challenges the world is currently facing. The book is particularly valuable for addressing the historical dimensions of our current crisis, and framing the big imperatives for design in relation to sustainability and consumption.
Somebody Else's Problem is a must-read text for students and educators of all disciplines ... including design, marketing, environment and business. This landmark publication highlights where we must intervene in order to achieve a sustainable future, and as a result is solution-oriented. Robert Crocker has made a significant contribution to the critical debate on production and consumption. A very timely addition towards solving one of the planet's most pressing imperatives.
In this fascinating book, Crocker uncovers, explains and rethinks the connections between design, consumerism and the escalating destruction of our social and ecological world.
Until now, students of the Masters of Sustainable Design at UniSA have been the sole beneficiaries of the knowledge and insight distilled into this book on contemporary consumption: what forces drive it and what can re-direct it for a more sustainable future. It deservedly now finds a wider audience.
Foreword by Stuart Walker
Introduction: The problem with consumerism
Part 1: From consumption to consumerism
1. Pleasure and luxury in consumption
Pleasure in consumption Deception and choice in consumerism The idea of luxury The democratization of luxury Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress Somebody and nobody
2. Imitation in design and consumption
Imitation and global trade Adaptive imitation in design Consumption and imitation From imitation to hyper-consumption
3. Vision and ideology in design and consumption
The rise of the consumer citizen Design, vision and ideology William Morris’s gospel of work Shaping the ideal home through design Inside the ‘design factory’
4. Enabling systems in consumption
Systems and their sunk-cost effects The freedom of the road The dream of flight Individualization and substitution Learning from pedestrians
Part 2: The escalation of consumption
5. Comparison, competition and consumerism
The fifties syndrome The newcomers Comparison and competition Managing product value Space inflation
6. Technology and acceleration
Founding myths From augmentation to control The high cost of optimization A Revolution in Time From the digital to the ‘physible’
7. The consumption of nature
From the gardens of childhood Understanding ‘nature’ Nature as idea The conquest of nature Telling stories about nature Nature as perfection Natural Zombies
Part 3: Towards sustainable consumption
8. Learning from the past
What is ‘sustainable consumption’? Enabling the good life My father’s books Custodian consumption Towards the throwaway society
9. Values, goals and time
Catching up with debt The heart of the dilemma A self-centred society Learning to play the flute Rediscovering the land
10. From post-caution to precaution
The post-cautionary principle Asking questions first The many uses of co-creation Co-creation through living labs Locating the precautionary Towards sustainable consumption
ROBERT CROCKER is Deputy Director of the China Australia Centre for Sustainable Urban Development. He teaches the history and theory of design and design for sustainability at the University of South Australia.
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