Consumption and Its Consequences, Daniel Miller,

Consumption and Its Consequences, Daniel Miller, Polity, €57.30, $64.95.

Should we decrease consumption in order to prevent climate change? Or is the increasing of consumption – of basic goods in particular – a necessary step to reduce world poverty? Is fairtrade and organic consumerism a viable and/or desirable solution to global inequalities? These are some of the pressing issues that Miller tackles in his latest publication. From soda in Trinidad to shopping in London, his book does not follow a political or academic agenda but invites the reader to engage with the complexity of consumption and its consequences, “trying to observe it closely and work out what it actually is.” He takes a resolutely pluridisciplinary approach reflected in the clever and light Socratic dialogues that open and close the book. These involves three fictitious academics – from environmental studies, sociology and anthropology – in a quest to identify exactly what consumption is. Miller refuses to confine consumers to passive dupes but instead explains how consumption can be a creative and counter-hegemonic process. However, he recognizes that consumerism can hardly be seen as the solution to climate change and global poverty. Against a simple anti-consumerism that “confuses and conflates different issues,” Miller strives to understand the complexity of consumption. Ultimately, the book is driven by one question: what can and should we do about it? By seeing localization where others see globalization, by putting forward an alternative theory of value, Miller provides some clues as to how scientists, politicians and citizens can work together towards more fair and sustainable practices and systems.

–T. N.