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Minimalist Living and Capitalism: A Contradiction?

Last Updated on February 21, 2021 by Nina Ahmedow

Do minimalism and capitalism contradict each other? When people first hear about minimalist living they often find the idea very difficult. That’s 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. It takes dedication to consciously reject this lifestyle and choose a simpler one instead.

For those who struggle with minimalist living, 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 number of products you buy? This would give you more freedom when choosing your job. Many minimalists end up quitting their jobs and doing work they enjoy but which might less money.

minimalist living pin lemons and luggage

Is Minimalist Living a Threat to Capitalism?

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

The idea that minimalist living could help fight capitalism sounds exciting. However, while minimalism can be a way to reduce overconsumption, it would be too easy to see it as a quick fix when talking about capitalism. Capitalism requires consumerism and 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. It says that if we don’t own what other people own we are worth less, or worthless.

Capitalism will continue because although minimalists don’t buy tons of clothes they spend money on fewer items, events, travels, and 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. Minimalist living can help us be more conscious about how we spend our money. We can also support businesses we believe in, but those businesses are still part of the capitalist system.

Finally, what about the idea that even though minimalists make fewer purchases the lifestyle is for rich people? If you have the time and education to realize how exhausting materialism is you’re more privileged than people who struggle to buy food. However, minimalist living doesn’t require making a lot of money but spending it more wisely. It can also be very useful for people who make little money and are often the main targets for advertising.

In conclusion, minimalist living is for everyone, not only 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’s always important to analyze our participation in the system and promote total liberation. If it’s useful for you to pack like a minimalist or follow my minimalist travel tips that’s a good start. But we need to do more.

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Simon
    January 21, 2021 at 9:54 am

    Isn’t the problem with Capitalism and Socialism greed and envy? Wouldn’t a culture of minimalism within a free market system heal the greed of capitalism and equal out the distribution socialism tries to accomplish as people would not be as envious of the rich/powerful? A culture of Minimalism would keep the rich in check by encouraging them to not carelessly use resources or people. A culture of minimalism would also, as you point out, empower the less privileged. I would argue that it would make less privileged people with lower IQs make better buying decisions because the quality of things produced in this system would be more meaningful and quality. So in essence there is less chance for error in purchases.

    • Reply
      Nina Ahmedow
      January 24, 2021 at 2:35 pm

      Hi Simon, thank you for the comment! I think that as long as capitalism is in place, even with a minimalist approach, it will cause the same issues, as it will be commodified. If a minimally decorated house becomes trendy and purchase-worthy and costs a lot more than what the average person can afford then it is not doing anything to help improve society. If rich people are the only ones who can afford fewer but more expensive products then the majority of people still have to buy ten times more t-shirts of lower quality so there is no real change. I’m not sure I get your point about less privileged people having lower IQs. I don’t think those two are related. Can you elaborate?

  • Reply
    Moises
    June 5, 2021 at 7:58 pm

    Don´t you think that minimalism is even more capitalistic? for example, if I have a house full of things (opposite to minimalism), maybe I have something in a corner o f my room that will help me in the future, but in the moment I could not know that. However, if I am throwing away the things that I am not using in the actual moment, in the future I will have to again pay for something I throw away in the past.

    What do you think about that?

    • Reply
      Nina Ahmedow
      June 6, 2021 at 2:47 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Moises! I don’t think minimalism is about throwing away things. It’s about purchasing fewer items. If you have things that you don’t use maybe there are people who can use them so instead of throwing them away you could donate them. In that case, you would even help another person.

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