When Enough is Enough

The contrast between consumerism and simple living at first glance seems fairly straightforward:

The contrast between consumerism and simple living at first glance seems fairly straightforward: Consumerism is about having more stuff, simple living is about having less stuff. Consumerism seems to be a permutation of the age-old vice of avarice, whose "special malice," says the Catholic Encyclopedia, "lies in that it makes the getting and keeping of money, possessions, and the like a purpose in itself to live for." As the old vitamin commercial from the ’80s so bluntly put it, "I want MORE for ME."

Avarice, however, does not really exhaust the phenomenon of consumerism. Consumerism is not so much about having more as it is about having something else. It is not buying but shopping that captures the spirit of consumerism. Buying is certainly an important part of consumerism, but buying brings a temporary halt to the restlessness that typifies it. It is this restlessness—the moving on to shopping for something else no matter what one has just purchased—that sets the spiritual tone for consumerism.

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Sojourners Magazine May 2005
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