Against Accumulation: Lifestyle Minimalism, De-growth and the Present Post-Ecological Condition

Miriam Meissner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The post-2008 financial crisis era has seen an upsurge in popular cultural
narratives that implicitly challenge principles of economic productivity,
consumption and growth by lamenting a so-called ‘world of too much,’
advocating ethics of minimalism, and renouncing everyday busyness.
Narratives range from lifestyle advice on simplicity and de-cluttering
private homes, to quests for the reduction of individual labor,
communication, social contacts and distraction. This article questions
these narratives in terms of eco-politics. Using Kate Soper’s concept of
‘alternative hedonism,’ the article analyzes a selection of five self-help
books and one blog that promote lifestyle minimalism in order to
interrogate their potential in stimulating de-growth eco-politics through
popular culture. Drawing on post-ecological theory, it argues that
narratives of lifestyle minimalism are paradoxical in that they resist yet
at the same time promote capitalist cultures of growth. To overcome
this limitation, it is crucial to understand and transform the narrative
premises of lifestyle minimalism in ways that contextualize problems of
‘excess,’ ‘clutter’ and ‘a world of too much’ as intrinsic to the current
system of capital accumulation. The article concludes by reflecting on
the potential of an eco-movement that joins the alternative culture of
minimalist hedonism with the eco-political agenda of de-growth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-200
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cultural Economy
Issue number3
Early online date27 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Lifestyle minimalism
  • degrowth
  • eco-politics
  • popular culture
  • accumulation

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