#JustFriday #BlackFriday or #Friyay – your choice.

You’ll be fully aware of Black Friday I’m sure. Another ‘tradition’ to come across the Atlantic, Black Friday takes place the day after Thanksgiving, which is the fourth Thursday in November. This year, Black Friday falls on November 27 and kick starts the holiday shopping season with promotions and discounts. On Black Friday last year, British consumers spent £810m on online purchases alone. That works out to a rate of £9,375 every second. That said, some retailers are taking a softer approach this year and spreading their promotions across the week, or even, the entire period between now and Christmas. One such retailer is Asda who will be offering £26 million worth of promotions over November and December in a bid to avoid the media frenzy of 2014 when this video of shoppers scrambling over one another to get their hands on discounted TVs went viral.

Because I’d rather be asleep at midnight tomorrow rather than logged on to Amazon, I’m on board with Traidcraft who want to remind everyone that it’s #JustFriday. Traidcraft have been ‘Fighting poverty through trade’ since 1979 and this month they have put together a fantastic infographic below on the trials and tribulations of Black Friday and how we can all work to make it a little brighter. Black Friday also coincides with Second-hand First Week, an initiative by TRAID to promote second-hand shopping. I for one know my #Friyay shopping will involve little more than a mulled wine with friends at the local Christmas market. What about you?


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Searching for Alternative Hedonism: Reflections from a presentation by Kate Soper

Kate Soper, a professor in philosophy at the London Metropolitan University, presented twice during the Sustainable Consumption Conference – at the young researchers pre-conference and as a key note speaker in the main conference. She spoke about her concept of ‘alternative hedonism’ in her key note, ‘Towards sustainability flourishing: Democracy, hedonism and the politics of prosperity’.

Put simply, alternative hedonism is the practice of finding pleasure in things other than consumption.  It identifies self-interested motivations for less environmentally destructive practices. We are constantly bombarded with media representations of how consumption can bring us happiness; make us successful, attractive and wealthy, but is consumerism really good for our long term future wellbeing?

Soper sees a contradiction between economic and ecological promises and a denial by politicians who tell us we have to consume more to help the economy whilst trying to reduce our carbon footprint. For a truly sustainable future we need a radical transformation of the global economic system and a re-think of the ‘good life’.

Soper made the completely true point that we work hard to spend the money that we work long hours to earn to enable us to consume luxuries to help us relax and buy time. We might buy a huge flat screen television because we feel like we deserve it for working hard all day. Just like I explained in a previous post, many of the items we purchase are allowing us to ‘buy time’, therefore creating this cycle of work and consumption. If only we slowed down, Soper says, and allowed ourselves to enjoy the simple things in life, then maybe we wouldn’t need to consume so much.

To make the idea of decreased consumption more appealing, we must not advocate a restricted and reduced mode of living, but emphasise the pleasures consumerism denies and the displeasures it generates. Affluence itself is compromised by stress, time-scarcity, obesity, ill-heath and pollution. We could each work for fewer hours, and allow more people to be in employment, thus sharing out the wealth. As Soper states, alternative hedonism responds to the current crisis as an opportunity to move towards a fairer and more life enhancing use of resources. Her ideas might be optimistic, but her reality is far from it. Soper is well aware that a radical overhaul of the current system is unlikely, but I for one found her ideas inspiring. Perhaps regression to a more sustainable future, and therefore a return to the ‘good life’ is the only way forward.

Recommended reading:

‘Alternative Hedonism, Cultural Theory and the Role of Aesthetic Revisioning’, Cultural Studies, Vol.22, no. 5, September 2008

‘Conceptualizing Needs in the Context of Consumer Politics’, Journal of Consumer Policy, volume 29, number 4, 2006, pp. 355-372

The Politics and Pleasures of Consuming Differently, co-editor with Lyn Thomas and Martin Ryle, Palgrave, 2009

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