Version 3.2

“Frugal abundance”: A useful concept for degrowth

The concept of “frugal abundance” has recently been mentioned in numerous degrowth publications, such as Schmelzer et al. (2022), Liegey and Nelson (2020) and Latouche (2020). However, degrowth has not yet fully engaged with the notion. In my presentation, I aim to start filling this gap.

To do so, I will first review the different uses of frugal abundance in the French and English literature. In particular, I will expand on the coinage of the term by the French philosopher Jacques Ellul. Then, I will rely on the degrowth, sufficiency and simplicity literature to challenge the usual opposition between “frugality” and “abundance”. I will engage with Marshall Sahlins' (2017) seminal essay The Original Affluent Society, which provides evidence that some societies with low levels of consumption and possessions can be considered in abundance. Based on this literature review, I will provide a first definition and conceptualisation of frugal abundance.

Finally, I will argue that the concept of frugal abundance can usefully complement degrowth discourses. For instance, it enables to question the capitalist common sense in which abundance and well-being are seen as achieved through high levels of consumption and production. It could also serve as a communication tool to approach individuals who are reluctant to directly question economic growth. In this optic, I will provide insights from my use of the term in an Icelandic “slow village” and two indigenous Maasai communities in Kenya.


Day: 2023-08-31
Start time: 12:00
Duration: 00:15
Room: ZV-8-10
Type: Paper Presentation
Theme: Communicating degrowth within a consumerist common sense



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