Minimalism vs. Capitalism

When people first hear about minimalism they often find the idea of becoming a minimalist very difficult because we live in a capitalist and consumerist society. We are constantly bombarded with advertisements for new products we should buy, and it can be very difficult to resist the urge to purchase the latest gadget and the bigger and better version of whatever item you may own.
​It takes dedication to consciously reject this lifestyle and choose a more simple form of living that doesn’t give much room to material possessions.

For those who struggle with minimalism, it’s important to ask what you want to do with your life. Do you want to spend your life at a job you hate to buy products you don’t need? Could you not reduce the amount of products you buy which would give you more freedom in choosing your job (many minimalists end up quitting their jobs and doing work they enjoy more but which might make them less money)?



Some people wonder what would happen to the economy if everyone started buying less. They wonder if minimalism is a threat to capitalism, and many minimalists certainly seem to think so.

The idea that minimalism could help fight capitalism sounds exciting. However, while minimalism can be a way to reduce overconsumption and bring the focus back to higher quality in our purchases it would be far too easy to see it as an easy fix when we talk about capitalism as a system. Although experts would certainly disagree with using capitalism and consumerism interchangeably, I believe that capitalism requires consumerism because it is consumerist behavior that guarantees to the markets that people will continue to spend money even when they have already met their needs. Overconsumption is caused by the need to impress others. Consumerism teaches us that owning more will make us happier and that if we don’t own what other people own we are worth less (or even worthless).

Capitalism will continue because although minimalists will not buy tons of clothes they will spend money on fewer but higher quality items, events, travels, and their hobbies. Spending money on these things will keep capitalism very much alive, so we have to be careful not to confuse our minimalism with actual political action. Minimalism can help us be more conscious about how we spend our money and support businesses we believe in, but those business will also be part of the capitalist system.

Finally, I would like to address the idea that even though minimalists make fewer purchases it is something that rich people are interested in. To even have the time and education to be aware of how exhausting materialism can be means you are far more privileged than people who struggle to put food on their table. However, if reducing one’s consumerism leads one to be able to invest time and money in worthy causes it is definitely useful. Minimalism doesn’t require making a lot of money and spending it more wisely though. It can also be very useful for people who make very little money and who are often the main targets of advertising.

In conclusion, minimalism is for everyone, not just rich people or those wanting to become rich. It can be extremely empowering for less privileged people. At the same time, we should not mistake it for a revolutionary act. It is always good to analyze our participation in the system and work in any way we can promote liberation.

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