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Sue L. T. McGregor PhD Professor Mount Saint Vincent University Halifax Nova Scotia Canada...

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The new concepts of transconsumerism and transconsumerist Sue L. T. McGregor PhD Professor Mount Saint Vincent University Halifax Nova Scotia Canada [email protected] Docent University of Helsinki May 2014 3 rd Nordic Conference on Consumer Research Vaasa, Finland www.nccr2014.com

The new concepts of transconsumerism

and transconsumeristSue L. T. McGregor PhD Professor

Mount Saint Vincent UniversityHalifax Nova Scotia Canada [email protected]

Docent University of HelsinkiMay 2014

3rd Nordic Conference on Consumer ResearchVaasa, Finland


Excessive 19th and 20th century consumption, fueled by the ideology of consumerism, has lead to the proliferation of the polycrises of wicked, complex global and local problems

We need a different kind of knowledge to address these vicious problems of humanity and the earth’s ecosystem – more than disciplinary, multi and interdisciplinary knowledge. We need transknowledge that is formed from criss-crossing back and forth among disciplines and the rest of the world!

Basic premise of this paper

We can use transdisciplinarity to solve wicked problems caused by capitalistic consumerism (e.g., climate change, unsustainability, unequal income and wealth distribution, poverty, exploitation, violence and conflict)

TAME PROBLEM Complex and difficult but can be solved, with everyone agreeing on the solution


Messy, vicious, aggressive social, political, economic and environmental messes; the more you do, the worse things get; yet, something has to be done

Transdisciplinary has been around since the early 1970s

Nicolescuian transdisciplinarity has been with us since the late 80s, early 90s

In 2010, I coined the term transdisciplinary consumerism

a January 2014 Google search for transconsumerism and transconsumerist yielded virtually zero results

Newness of these concepts

Trans means working at the borders by crisscrossing back and forth (zigzag

lateral movement) and actually pushing, climbing over and/or moving beyond

borders (transcending): at the interface of disciplines and civil society

Assumes that things that are normally seen as antagonistic or contradictory can temporarily be reconciled to create transknowledge (things like worldviews, interests, positions taken on an issue, values, beliefs)

Inclusive logic

TD Knowledge is:

• political• social• historical • individual

Internal World of Humans where Perspectives and

Consciousness Flow

• culture and art• religions• spiritualites

Hidden Third (Mediating Force Lubricating the Movement Between

Internal and External Worlds)

• environmental• economic• cosmic/planetary

External World of Humans Where Information Flows

People from all walks of life (Multiple Realities) enter this fecund "middle ground" (zone of non-resistance, ripe with potential and possibilities)

prepared to remain open to others' viewpoints so they can use inclusive logic, temporarily reconcile contradictions, while respecting emergence,

synergy and fusion, and integrate ideas to form new complex, embodied, and cross-fertilized knowledge that can be used to address the complex problem

Couched in Nicolescuian TD, I propose two new concepts for

your consideration

If we are striving to create transknowledge to address wicked problems created by consumption, informed by the ideology of consumerism, maybe those two words are not enough anymore. Maybe we need to go beyond those terms to something that might include

transconsumerism◦ and


More assumptions...


Consumerism is an ideology that shapes people’s assumptions about (a) power relationships, (b) preferred market dynamics, (c) presumed rights and responsibilities, and (d) how people make sense of their role as a consumer in a consumer culture and consumer society

Consumerist is ‘consumer’ with ist added to it. Ist is Latin and used to form words that mean ‘some one who does or some one who makes’

Consumerist has two meanings:

One who favours consumerism (the ideology and accompanying behaviour of people in the marketplace)

One who is in an advocate in favour of protecting consumers’ rights and welfare as they consume


The idea of transconsumerism lets us consider a realm of reality beyond conventional notions of the ideology of consumerism. It lets us climb beyond, even surmount (get through, overcome, conquer, triumph) the longstanding notions of capitalistic consumerism.

Transconsumerism lets us reshape and rethink our assumptions about power relationships, preferred market dynamics, presumed responsibilities and rights as people in our consuming role, and how we make sense of our role as a ‘consumer’


Ritzer (1998) lamented the loss of spaces where people can escape shopping, be away from shopping. He said we are living in “an era of transconsumerism” and meant that the sameness of malls and brands creates the illusion of positiveness (all is good if we shop!).

Brezsny (2005) defined transconsumerism as the absence of tendencies to predicate happiness on acquiring material possessions. We have moved beyond consumerism if we do not associate happiness with things.

Sebastian (2009) used the term to refer to renting things instead of buying them. We have moved beyond consumerism if we rent things instead of owning them (including renting family, friends, protestors, demonstrators!)

There is very little in the literature about this concept, so I am making this up as I go! This is all I found....

Transconsumerism refers to a new or different space than the old notion of consumerism as an ideology. It may well be a new ideology (they are not all bad!)

What would transconsumerism look like through a Nicolescuian lens?

What new insights and knowledge could we create about people in their consumer role, and the ramifications of their (in)actions, using the transdisciplinary methodology of knowledge creation as we climbed beyond, even surmounted (get through, overcome, conquer, triumph) the longstanding notions of capitalistic consumerism? How would Nicolescuian TD turn things on their head?


e.g., climate change,

unsustainability, unequal income

and wealth distribution,

poverty, exploitation, violence and


Emergence (new things surfacing, appearing as people problem solve together)

Embodied (becoming part of someone) Complex (containing many interconnected

parts that make it difficult to understand but add richness to our lives)

Cross-fertilized (rather than silos) Inclusion, caring, comprehensive Multiple perspectives woven together -

melded and fused perspectives Border and boundary crossing, blurring,

dismantling (to make room for many voices) Intellectual work and synergy at these


Conversations and dialogue about transconsumerism could now include:

Instead of one who favours consumerism or one who advocates that consumer’s rights be protected so they can continue to consume or not be harmed by what they consume, what would transconsumerist look like?

Remember ‘ist’ means someone who does or someone who makes

What would a transconsumerist make or do?

Second term Transconsumerist

One of the TD levels of reality is the physical, material reality – including materialism and consumerism

Kingwell (2012) coined the term “trans-consumerist end game” and said people could reach this end game by reaching beyond the material world/reality of consumerism

An endgame is the final stage of something, with only a few pieces left to play.

Transconsumerist VERY little in the literature...

I suggest that a transconsumerist would view society as being at the end of the long established game of consumerism, ready to move the final pieces and end the game.

As a way to end the game, transconsumerists would advocate that people from all walks of life begin to consider the merit of embracing Nicolescuian transdisciplinarity as a new methodology for creating the transknowledge needed to solve the wicked problems of how to embrace our humanity and live on this finite planet – by NOT consuming like we are now – change our ideologies and resultant behaviour – change the game!

◦They would favour transdisciplinary consumerism.

Nicolescuian transdisciplinary methodology

Transconsumerism Transconsumerist Transdisciplinary consumerism

I leave these ideas with you in hopes you can find some value in them as you consider the Future of Consumption...