This is an extract from the draft John Grant’s new book Co-opportunity, contracted for publication with John Wiley & Sons Limited, January 2010. This extract is from section 2 of the book – Relocating the Dreams.
‘Relocating the dreams’ is a quote from British film-maker David Puttnam. He said in a recent speech that what marketers need to do is help pull culture forward – we created the dreams of consumerism and now we need to create positive dreams to inspire change.
This section starts with a simple but often overlooked question. What is consumerism? I look at what people buy, how they spend their time. And conclude (using Anthony Giddens phrase) that culturally it amounts to affective individualism. We live in homes stuffed with goodies but are to some extent trapped in these spaces and isolated from connections with community and nature. This is what I think all those reports saying we crave “authentic experiences” mean. We need human community and nature like we need air and water and freedom.
A New Vision of Life
The potential is to offer a new vision of a fuller quality of life, progress, potential for human development and living fully… and I see these dreams as being located in community and nature. Both are part of a revision of our idea of psychology – as an extended ‘self’ that is integrated and connected with the world. Part of a much broader revision of scientific/materialist/hierarchical thinking – a return to a tradition of imaginative participation rather than withdrawn to control.
The history of culture is one of specialisation followed by compensation. Mary Douglas looked at how the styles of pottery in Chinese courts oscillated over a two or so generation cycle from baroque (Ming vases) to ethnic downshifting (valuing simplicity and harmony). We’ve had two or three generations of individualist consumerism – probably peaking in the late 90s – and it already feels like the tide is turning. Especially recently with the new mood of thrift, revisiting arts and crafts, growing your own food and camping holidays. These are the first inklings perhaps of dreams that can draw people forward, to living better with less.
Putting It Into Practice
In the ‘putting it into practice’ section I explore some case examples that are tackling both of these dreams (community and connecting with nature) at once – the garden sharing and grow your own movements, a family walking scheme, Tweehive (a bee colony role play on Twitter). Followed by a fuller digest of short case studies – intended as starting point inspirations – looking at the uprush of community schemes, new kinds of ‘shops’, the slow movement, Burning Man, community supported agriculture, ecopsychology retreats and much besides.
This is the section probably most relevant to those who work in marketing and the creative industries. It’s challenging to take in the fact that we had a big hand in creating this mess, and consider radically revising not just ‘how’ we sell but ‘what’ we sell. The main difference between the marketing for a mountain bike and a 4×4 car is the carbon – they are selling one and the same dream of rugged, outdoors wildnerness adventure – exactly the sort of thing this section points to people yearning for. My feeling is we may need to stop selling surrogates and start supporting alternatives (like Nokia/Freecycle, or Nike/Girl Effect). Something we might discuss and add to the draft?
How This Works
My publisher, Wiley, has been quite broad-minded in allowing me to share the near completed draft in this public way, for free. I’d ask you to please be respectful of that and for instance don’t circulate all or part of the manuscript. Also by Wiley’s request only one section of the book with be available for download at any one time. If you or a colleague has missed an earlier section, you can always email me at email@example.com.
Please do post thoughts, ideas, comments and insights in the comments section. I will be checking into these, and using them to help me complete the manuscript. I’ll also be giving free signed books to the most helpful commenters and acknowledging all those that are helpful in the acknowledgements section of the final book.
Posts in this series:
- Help John Grant Edit His New Book “Co-Opportunity”
- Help John Grant Edit His New Book “Co-Opportunity” [Introduction]
- Help John Grant Edit His New Book “Co-Opportunity” [Part 1]
- Help John Grant Edit His New Book “Co-Opportunity” [Part 2]
- Help John Grant Edit His New Book “Co-Opportunity” [Part 3]
- Help John Grant Edit His New Book “Co-Opportunity” [Part 4]
- Help John Grant Edit His New Book “Co-Opportunity” [Part 5]