Citizen Action Monitor

It’s past time for us to shift away from consumer desires towards “an alternative hedonism”

An alternative hedonism leading to a more ecologically sustainable, satisfying, happier life.

No 2089 Posted by fw, November 3, 2017

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hedonism — The ethical theory that pleasure (in the sense of the satisfaction of desires) is the highest good and proper aim of human life.

In 1848, famed British philosopher John Stuart Mills accepted that human nature is manifested “in more and in less civilized ways.”

I am not charmed with the ideal of life held out by those who think that the normal state of human beings is that of struggling to get on, that the trampling, crushing, elbowing and treading on each other’s heels, which form the existing type of social life, are the most desirable lot of human kind. … The best state for human nature is that which, while no one is poor, no one desires to be richer, nor has any reason to fear being thrust back, by the efforts of others to push themselves forward.”

Similarly, today’s learned commentators on life in a capitalist society point to its dysfunctional aspects leading us away from flourishing lifestyles.

In this synopsis, Section 4, Chapter 7 “An alternative hedonism”, Jackson reviews the compelling evidence to support the view that “people are both happier and live more sustainably when they favour intrinsic goals that embed them in family and community. … we are not and never were entirely the selfish hedonists that conventional economics expects and needs us to be.

Tim Jackson is a British ecological economist and professor of sustainable development at the University of Surrey.

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An alternative hedonism, a synopsis, from Chapter 7, “Flourishing — Within Limits” of Tim Jackson’s book, Prosperity without Growth, Routledge, 2nd edition, 2016-17

I am not charmed with the ideal of life held out by those who think that the normal state of human beings is that of struggling to get on, that the trampling, crushing, elbowing and treading on each other’s heels, which form the existing type of social life, are the most desirable lot of human kind.” –John Stuart Mill, 1848

It is with the above quote that Tim Jackson begins Section 4, Chapter 7, titled “An alternative hedonism”.

Continuing, Jackson cites Mill’s alternative vision of the ideal life: “The best state for human nature is that which, while no one is poor, no one desires to be richer, nor has any reason to fear being thrust back, by the efforts of others to push themselves forward.”

Jackson points out that with these two quotes, Mill accepts that human nature is manifested “in more and in less civilized ways.”

Similarly, today’s learned commentators on life in a capitalist society point to its dysfunctional aspects leading us away from flourishing lifestyles. Somehow, some way we must get back on track to “the best state for human nature” — Flourishing — Within Limits.

British philosopher, Kate Soper, writes of  “a widespread disenchantment with modern life – a sense that consumer society has passed some kind of critical point, where materialism is now actively detracting from human wellbeing.”

Research by American psychologist, Tim Kasser, reveals that “People with higher intrinsic values are both happier and have higher levels of environmental responsibility than those with materialistic values.”

A study by British social psychologist, Helga Dittmar, drawing on evidence from 175 studies worldwide on the relationship between materialism and wellbeing, found “a clear, consistent negative association between a broad array of types of personal well-being and people’s belief in, and prioritization of, materialistic pursuits in life.”

The evidence is compelling, concludes Jackson, “… people are both happier and live more sustainably when they favour intrinsic goals that embed them in family and community. Flourishing within limits is a real possibility, according to this evidence.”

It’s past time for “A shift towards an alternative hedonism [that] would lead to a more ecologically sustainable life that is also more satisfying and would leave us happier. … A simple and yet ferociously destructive misconception of human nature lies at the heart of modern capitalism.

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