Frugality: a way to a better life?
This issue explores the idea of frugality in its most positive sense. Not as deprivation enforced by lack of resources or as willed abstinence but as moderation of conduct - eating habits being only one aspect of this - responding to a need to strike a balance and to draw an acceptable line between the necessary and the superfluous.
But who should draw this line? And according to what criteria? Here there is considerable room for subjective opinion. Even if it is accepted that a minimum of quantitative, objective needs must be met in terms of food, clothing and housing, it is clearthat history, culture, tradition and hierarchies of values are bound to have a big say when it comes to defining quality of life. To take just one example among many, the idea of well-being is bound to vary depending on whether or not one is used to the standards of comfort associated with the consumer society.
For the consumer society is here challenged on two counts. Philosophically in the sense that it artificially stokes up certain needs; economically in the sense that satisfaction of these needs, which have now spread all over the world, is only possible for the few and provokes mounting frustration among the many.
Nowhere in these pages does frugality appear as a counsel of despair, a call for the victims of the consumer society to tighten their belts. It is presented instead as an alternative philosophy, a vision of life that replaces today's malfunctions and distortions with a sense of balance, on the social and human scale, between needs and resources, especially between material needs and ethical, aesthetic and recreational aspirations.
What remains to be seen is whether such an attempt to find a way between materialism and the spiritual aspects of life can be successful.