Home About Browse Search

Fritz, Diana, 2021. Living against the grain of society : the practice of voluntary simplicity. Second cycle, A2E. Uppsala: SLU, Dept. of Urban and Rural Development



Ecological challenges like climate change and biodiversity loss lead to a need for change, but the radical changes that are required seem not to come about. One hot issue debated is who has the power and responsibility to change. This discussion has many different dimensions (e.g., between countries, or technological fixes vs radical system change) but here I base my study on the discussion of agency or structure. To put it simply, do we need to focus on structural political changes or rather on the level of the individuals and their consumerist lifestyles. This thesis aims to contribute to this debate by providing a better understanding of the (im)possibilities of individual lifestyle changes in a society that is largely organized to accommodate consumerist lifestyles. It does so by focusing on the example of Voluntary Simplicity, a lifestyle movement that advocates for a post-consumerist lifestyle. With the help of practice theory, which is especially fit to analyze everyday practices and change, and a qualitative interview study with seven voluntary simplifiers living in Sweden, I answer the following research questions: What are the motivations and drivers for having a voluntary simplicity lifestyle?, what are the challenges and obstacles that voluntary simplifiers need to overcome?, and does life, in consequence, get more complicated by striving for a “simpler” life because it is against the grain of society? The analysis demonstrates a motivation among the simplifiers to live sustainably and to reduce material possessions, working hours and stress. Impediments include the struggle of wanting to be part of a community but at the same time being different from the mainstream society, inflexible work structures and time and labor-intensive activities such as self-sufficiency. The question if life got simpler could not satisfactorily be answered and is connected to considerations on what life is about. In the discussion, I argue to consider social norms and values because they seem to exacerbate change both for politics and individuals. Future avenues for study could be based on participatory observation, autoethnography or doing research in non-capitalist-consumerist societies. This study is relevant because it opened up and contributed to the debate about change by acknowledging the entanglement of social structures and individuals.

Main title:Living against the grain of society
Subtitle:the practice of voluntary simplicity
Authors:Fritz, Diana
Supervisor:Joosse, Sofie and Penker, Marianne
Examiner:Westberg, Lotten
Volume/Sequential designation:UNSPECIFIED
Year of Publication:2021
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:NM025 EnvEuro - European Master in Environmental Science 120 HEC
Supervising department:(NL, NJ) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
(LTJ, LTV) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
Keywords:voluntary simplicity, simple living, anti-consumption, practice theory, societal change, responsibilization
Permanent URL:
Subject. Use of subject categories until 2023-04-30.:Labour and employment
Rural sociology and social security
Deposited On:08 Jul 2021 06:43
Metadata Last Modified:09 Jul 2021 01:01

Repository Staff Only: item control page


Downloads per year (since September 2012)

View more statistics