Skip navigation
Hardcover | ISBN: 9780262162081 | 392 pp. | 6 x 9 in | June 2002
Paperback | $36.00 Short | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780262661287 | 392 pp. | 6 x 9 in | June 2002

Confronting Consumption


Comforting terms such as "sustainable development" and "green production" frame environmental debate by stressing technology (not green enough), economic growth (not enough in the right places), and population (too large). Concern about consumption emerges, if at all, in benign ways—as calls for green purchasing or more recycling, or for small changes in production processes. Many academics, policymakers, and journalists, in fact, accept the economists' view of consumption as nothing less than the purpose of the economy. Yet many people have a troubled, intuitive understanding that tinkering at the margins of production and purchasing will not put society on an ecologically and socially sustainable path.

Confronting Consumption places consumption at the center of debate by conceptualizing "the consumption problem" and documenting diverse efforts to confront it. In Part 1, the book frames consumption as a problem of political and ecological economy, emphasizing core concepts of individualization and commoditization. Part 2 develops the idea of distancing and examines transnational chains of consumption in the context of economic globalization. Part 3 describes citizen action through local currencies, home power, voluntary simplicity, "ad-busting," and product certification. Together, the chapters propose "cautious consuming" and "better producing" as an activist and policy response to environmental problems. The book concludes that confronting consumption must become a driving focus of contemporary environmental scholarship and activism.

About the Editors

Thomas Princen is a Professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan. Princen is the author of The Logic of Sufficiency (2005) and Treading Softly: Paths to Ecological Order (2010) and coeditor of Confronting Consumption (2002), all published by the MIT Press

Michael Maniates is Professor of Political Science and Environmental Science at Allegheny College. He is the coeditor, with Thomas Princen and Ken Conca, of Confronting Consumption (MIT Press, 2002).

Ken Conca is Associate Professor of Government and Politics and Director of the Harrison Program on the Future Global Agenda at the University of Maryland.


" excellent exploration of what could turn out to be one of the frontrank issues of our time.", Norman Myers, Nature

"A Comprehensive analysis of how and why consumer society wreaks havoc on Earth." —

"Are you willing to confront consumption?...then read this book." , Vicki Robin, Journal of Positive Futures

"The authors are to be commended for breaking the code of silence surrounding consumption and engaging the debate." , Richard Walthers, Green @ Work Magazine

"The book certainly succeeds in thinking 'outside the box'." —Global Environmental Politics

"The editors ultimately craft a convincing case not just to confront consumption but to transform the structures that sustain it." , Jennifer Bogo, Audubon

"The editors ultimately craft a convincing case not just to confront consumption but to transform the structures that sustain it." , Jennifer Bogo, Audubon Magazine


"This book is important not just for its brilliance but for its rarity: few environmental scholars have dared to take on this issue in a manner that goes beyond rhetorical posturing and 'limits to growth' type arguments."
—Lamont C. Hempel, Hedco Professor of Environmental Studies and Director of Environmental Programs, University of Redlands


2003 Harold and Margaret Sprout Award presented by the International Studies Association (ISA).