پویایی های رفتار مصرف کننده و انتقال به الگوهای مصرف پایدار
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|1819||2011||6 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, Volume 1, Issue 1, June 2011, Pages 109–114
Strong growth in disposable income has driven, and is still driving, consumption to unprecedented, but not sustainable levels. To explain the dynamic interplay of needs, need satisfaction, and innovation underlying that growth a behavioral theory of consumption is suggested and discussed with respect to its implications for making a transition to more sustainable patterns of consumer behavior.
In the developed countries, consumption drives much of the environmental stress, waste, degradation, and resource exhaustion directly or indirectly qua the production of the goods and services demanded. This situation is the result of a century long process fueled by the unprecedented growth of real per capita income. When discussing options for making a transition to consumption patterns with less harmful consequences it seems useful, therefore, to ponder how consumers have come to respond to a situation of relative affluence. Consumption expenditures have followed closely the dramatic increases of per capita income. In the U.S., for example, consumer spending has been rising over just one century in real terms by roughly the factor five (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Report 991, 2006) – yes, calculated in prices of 2002, the budget an average American could spend in 1901 was only little more than 20% of the budget of 2002! The drastic expansion has not equally taken place in all consumption categories. In some of them income elasticity has been greater than one, in others smaller than one, and in yet others consumption comes close to a state reflecting saturation (see e.g., Lebergott, 1993). To simply assume that consumers are insatiable – as in canonical economics in order to ensure unique solutions for the utility maximization calculus – is therefore not very helpful both for explaining the uneven growth of consumption categories and for inquiring into how a transition to more sustainable consumption patterns can be made.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Since Bentham's inception of utilitarianism, economists have been inspired by the twin idea of explaining economic behavior and assessing its moral legitimacy. Today the latter idea only occurs in the abstract disguise of welfare theory. Once the black box of subjective preferences is opened, however, and the underlying motivational forces are diagnosed as outlined here, welfare theory becomes a debatable basis for assessing what changes in consumption would seem warranted. Welfare economics has no answer to the question of what stage of preference learning should be taken as a basis for assessing whether there are any welfare gains; and it is silent on whether the different motivations underlying consumption can claim different normative legitimacy (see Binder, 2010). True, the multiplication of per capita disposable income has enabled not only the upper strata of society but also the masses to enjoy what by historical standards is a “good” life. Nonetheless, a judgment on what is a still better life cannot be made independent of the level of income already reached. Once disposable income allows to remove deprivation in the pressing human needs, motivational mechanisms take over in guiding consumer behavior that are less innocent with respect to their environmental impact. What consumers then enjoy as pleasures, to use the utilitarian diction, are largely learnt pleasures, and where the pleasures would, in principle, seem satiable with the income level reached, cognitive motives are usually learnt so as to enjoy ways of further income spending that avoid satiation. Yet, there is a notable asymmetry. Had there been no opportunity to experience all the new consumption possibilities there would have been no opportunity to learn to appreciate them – and no sense of missing something. Once all the experiences have been made, though, foregoing the learnt pleasures would be felt as a harsh privation. In view of the severe environmental degradation and resource exhaustion caused by modern consumption patterns this asymmetry can be argued to have moral relevance when it comes to assessing what transitions are to be made for reaching more sustainable consumption patterns. However, one of the puzzling questions in the transition debate is: who has the power and motivation to act to change consumer behavior – the consumers themselves, the producers, the government? It would be an illusion to believe that, in an economy committed to growth, producers could escape from the spiral of saturated markets triggering innovations that aim at creating additional demand that sooner or later is satiated too. It would be illusionary to assume that producers facing increasing saturation in the rich economies would not seek, or even press for, the opportunity to expand into non-saturated markets of the developing economies – advertising and propagating the devastating, resource-intensive consumption patterns there to hundreds of millions of future consumers. And it would be totally illusionary, if not an expression of dual morality (see Chang, 2003), to hope that these new, inexperienced consumers would be the ones who abstain from adopting the advertised life style while consumers in the developed countries seem unable to emancipate themselves from their drifting motivations. It is difficult to imagine therefore that a transition can come about without regulations and suitable discriminatory taxation being invoked on the innovation and exportation process. Several of the necessary measures have been discussed for quite some while, particularly those focusing on product characteristics and features of the production process. Among them are regulations forcing a “de-materialization” strategy (Schmidt-Bleek, 1994) which to the extent to which the resource savings can be privately internalized, amounts to little more than enforcing corresponding conventions. Stricter regulations here or with respect to energy conversation in, and energy efficiency of, consumer goods and corresponding emission standards need to be supplemented by policies avoiding rebound effects (see van den Bergh, 2011). Also the reduction of incentives for, or even taxation of, mass production in agriculture and food processing, should be mentioned here as measures directly impacting on consumer behavior. If these measures were successfully implemented, the further expansion of demand would develop significantly less environmental harm – provided the costs of these measures in terms of international competitiveness and domestic economic growth still allow any further expansion. What has much less been discussed are regulations and taxes that try to induce shifts in consumer expenditures themselves, particularly a selective and progressively shaped taxation of consumption. Much environmental harm could be prevented if consumers substituted the consumption of resource-intensive products and services (like those of the tourism industry – one of the fastest growing industries world wide) by less resource-intensive products and services. The latter kind of services like care, personal assistance, the arts, education, research, law enforcement, defense, and others tend to be labor-intensive. Under the influence of rising wages and, hence, rising costs of these services, what actually currently happens is the opposite tendency: substituting away from labor-intensive services. This is equally obvious where the supply of these services is or can privately be organized - as for example in the case of care, personal assistance, the arts, or education - as it is in the cases where the supply is publicly provided - as a public or merit good like research, law enforcement, or defense. Perhaps surprisingly, a good deal of the transition that seems to be necessary to come closer to sustainable consumption patterns thus requires reverting processes that are under way as a result of a declining willingness to pay for the increasing relative costs of labor-intensive services. Ultimately, the substitution is driven by the secularly declining prices of natural resources relative to wages that makes resource-intensive products and services relatively cheaper. But it is precisely this falling price ratio that is not sustainable – calling for correction more generally or, where this is not possible, more specifically by regulations and discriminating taxes on resource-intensive products and services. The question remains, of course, who is going to act and with what motivation. Where should the majority votes for these measures in democracies come from? All that can probably be hoped for is that a public discourse in the richest economies gains momentum that acknowledges the moral relevance of the notable asymmetric effect which is exerted on our well-being by what we learn to consume. Putting the environmental disturbances of consumption in perspective with the drifting motivations underlying consumption, sovereign voters may show more insight to form the necessary majorities in the political arena where sovereign consumers hesitate to abstain from what they have been conditioned to want. In order to get the public discourse going it is not helpful to treat consumer motivation as a taboo (as some interpretations of consumer sovereignty do; see Norton et al. (1998) for a criticism). Endowed with reason, we are all able to reflect whether certain consumption patterns are worth it, if we become aware of their true costs. Inviting people to reflect on their mind set in this regard is not paternalism.