What are things that people value
As recyclable products may be: The purpose of a product can never be to enable economic growth by making it “recyclable” or “recyclable”. Its purpose can always only be the benefit or the pleasure that a thing brings. Your use, not consumption. Even for recyclables, less is more. Because the production of all artifacts and their preservation require not only energy and raw materials but also human lifetime, during production and use. Life time that is precious. Anyone who really wants to appreciate products, their production methods and the nature that gives them resources, asks about their benefits and their purpose. What things really make you happy? To do this, we don't have to compulsively weigh what is really useful. On the contrary, we can also face the world differently, in a positive sense “lovingly materialistic”, as the poet Pablo Neruda recommends. In his hymn of praise for small and large things, he conjures up the diversity of shapes, colors and materials. Each piece has its own value for him, together they determine his life. “I love things more than anything (…), not only the higher ones, but also the infinitely small ones (…), with my soul, the planet is beautiful (…), full of everything that humans have created,” writes Neruda . “Nobody can say that I only loved what bounces, climbs, survives and sighs. (...) Things tell me a lot, they ran so close to my existence that they were there to me, that they lived half a life with me and that - once half a death with me. “Only what we really love is worth the trouble of using and getting.
Things as lifelong companions
So wouldn't it make more sense if we decelerated our consumer behavior and had fewer but better things? Made good for life and for life? Objects with which we have a personal relationship? Things that gain in value and patina over the years for us or others. And before we allow them to play a role in our lives, shouldn't we think a little more carefully about what they actually mean to our lives? Ivan Illich, for example, shows us how such other value standards work. With his writings, the author, philosopher and theologian has provided approaches to think things against the grain. In 1978 he was one of the first to calculate in his book Energy and Equity that the car is a lifetime eater. With it we in no way save life or gain free time, as one would assume. Illich calculated the time that we would have to spend to finance the car with the help of our income, as well as the time that is then necessary for the financing of the operation, for fuel, repairs, insurance, etc. Working time equals lifetime, according to Illich's equation. It not only helps when buying a car, but also when it comes to consumption in general. As soon as we have bought something, we are already looking for the next bargain. Because it's fun, because we tell ourselves that we absolutely need this and that, or simply because we can afford it. What we don't buy doesn't need to be manufactured, we don't have to earn. The less we acquire and produce, the fewer jobs the economy has to provide or create over and over again. Because the more productive we are, the more we have to consume in order to be able to work.
Calculate marginal utility
In order to come to a different appreciation of things and our consumption, we can also use tough business arguments. Economists have developed the term “marginal utility of things” for this. This means that the usefulness of a commodity cannot be increased in proportion to its number. If we buy ten rolls for our Sunday breakfast, but if we are full after the second, each additional roll loses its value for us. It is similar to a thirsty drinker who determines a "high positive marginal benefit" after the first beer, one that tends to zero after the fifth and the opposite after the tenth. The same invoice applies to the purchase of goods. If we buy twenty T-shirts, we can only wear one at a time, and the benefits of the others in the closet are reduced accordingly. A growth-oriented consumer goods industry must always react to this tendency towards market saturation. She tries to keep consumption going. After all, it is not the products that are scarce, nor the money, but the needs. Marketing and advertising specialists as well as designers are now responsible for more and lasting sales. Because the function of a new object or device remains essentially the same, it depends on the look and image, on the attitude towards life that a product conveys. These factors are stylized as the decisive driving force behind new purchases, even though the old toaster, the old car, the winter jacket are still in good shape. A social pressure on the consumer is staged, a distinction and a reputation gain is suggested, a higher social appreciation is promised. Technical obsolescence also serves to promote sales. A long period of use by consumers is counterproductive for economic growth. The list of examples of planned obsolescence is long: starting with lightbulbs, which were originally much more durable, to pantyhose that do not survive the first time you put them on, to printers or washing machines, which usually have the same defects after the warranty period has expired. There are camera or cell phone batteries that no longer work after two years and either cannot be replaced anyway or are simply no longer available. Consumer advocates and manufacturers argue about whether this is deliberately planned by the industry or whether it is a coincidence. A new project by the Federal Environment Agency wants to shed more light on electrical and electronic devices. The fact is: the manufacturers are not doing anything to change it. What's the point, since obsolescence ensures constant repeat purchases. The industry naturally has no interest in keeping things permanently.
The additional costs of consumption
Once we have understood the marginal utility and its effects, we are in a position to value things differently - and to change our growth-promoting consumer behavior. If we take another look at the marginal costs, our previous behavior becomes completely nonsensical. In business administration and microeconomics, marginal costs are the costs that arise from the production of an additional unit of a product. We consumers have to reckon with them too: the more things we acquire, own, maintain and later have to dispose of, the higher the psychological, social and ecological costs associated with this type of excess. If we understand our economy as a kind of flow scheme, energy, raw materials, labor and time have to flow in on the one hand so that products come out on the other. A huge machine that has to be kept going - the faster it runs, the faster we have to work and consume and the more energy and raw materials are wasted - only so that in the end we have acquired items that we actually don't need, let alone appreciate . With the help of marginal utility and marginal costs, we are already a step further in changing our appreciation. We now understand the constraints of consumption and can do different things. The only thing missing is the work factor. Let's untie the Gordian knot of evaluating one's own work and that of others in order to achieve a sustainable society.
A present for the remaining debt
Many people already do their work with a high ethos and are rightly proud of what they can and achieve. The price, which can be enforced as a reward, plays an important role here. But if you listen carefully in conversations about work, you will understand that behind the dimension of money there is something that has nothing to do with money and cannot be regulated with money either. The so-called enjoyment of work does not have to be rewarded, it bears its reward in itself: the pride and joy in the successful, valued, meaningful work. The work suffering that is sometimes associated with this, on the other hand, can and must be adequately compensated. However, this cannot be achieved in the currency 'money' alone. The relative value of a job may be objectified in the market price, but this never applies to the absolute value of the person who does the job for us. As important as it is to pay a fair price for the work and the working time, it is just as important to understand that the monetary compensation for a service includes the aspect of devaluing the work and the person. Because everything that a person has voluntarily put into his work in terms of ability, enthusiasm and goodness is priceless, it is and remains a piece of him. When it comes to acquisition, there is therefore a remainder of “debt” that can only be paid in the currency of appreciation, respect and gratitude. That this is subliminally part of our feelings and our culture is often expressed in everyday life in a polite gesture, a gift or a tip to honor both sides: those who express their appreciation and those who reveal their work to the evaluation.
Christine Ax - factoryy 2013 No. 3
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