Insight: For economics professor Philip Mowati, our consumption is limited to paradoxes

We want to consume less and better, but be careful not to jeopardize growth and employment. We aspire to protect the planet, while still having fun. When consumption is torn between the limitations of the world and the ideals of each. Philip Mowati, founder of the ObSoCo Observatory, helps us understand.

So I’m consuming…but who am I? Very bold those who today are trying, with their behavior and aspirations, to decipher the French consumer. “It is not easy because you must be wary of general visions and take into account, on the contrary, the great disparity in habits.”This is announced by Philippe Moati, Professor of Economics at the University of Paris and co-founder of the Observatory on Society and Consumption (ObSoCo). Habits which, as a reward, have been particularly affected in recent years by the succession of financial, social, health and geopolitical crises…

“These crises come to break our routine”

“These crises come to break our routine, make us revise our habits. We saw this during the Covid epidemic. Many have questioned themselves, by putting forward notions of solidarity and citizenship, by favoring commercial proximity, moving towards more sobriety, consuming less but better… ” All this while taking care of green procurement, because the environment to be protected remains a well-founded concern for many consumers. The perfect metaphor for the hummingbird effect, everyone should push a drop of water to avoid an environmental disaster.

Less than 11% on organic products

But here between his desire and the reality of the chaos of the world there is the price .. The election campaign has shown that, purchasing power is the center of family budgets. Then the war in Ukraine exacerbated it by causing marked increases in the receipt of payment at the supermarket or at the pump. The organic market, for example, is one of the sectors suffering from the side effects of inflationary insecurity. According to Interville, the association that handles the Federation of Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Producers, the sale of organic produce, in one year, has shown a decline of 11%. dissatisfaction that must be taken into account because, at the same time, “Manufacturers have also recognized this need to eat healthily but without the need to switch to organic products. So we are seeing more and more products labeled free of nitrates or dyes, ensuring animal welfare.”

The consumer must arbitrate

So between all these contingencies, the consumer must increasingly judge “Between his likes and restrictions”. The latest ObSoCo study (1) reveals an echo of this “Cognitive dissonance”.

On the other hand, 88% of the French surveyed believe that society places too much emphasis on consumption and that the way we consume is harmful to the environment. On the other hand, 71% argue, very practically, that growth in consumption is essential to the economy and employment. Meanwhile, 74% of them realize that the ability to buy will greatly contribute to happiness, especially in this anxious period. “The pleasure of consumption is an argument put forward when you are going through hard times. The economic system is still characterized by this by inviting consumers to part with it, with the celebrity they deserve. Like a reward, a means of compensation.” So, there may be a fundamental trend: “The supreme utopia of the Western world will be individual happiness.”. Pay attention to others, to the planet, of course, but it should not encroach so much on our space of pleasure.

The rise of fast trade

Summer vacation example: Booking rates for destinations outside mainland France are back to higher levels than they were before the health crisis. go away from home, “To live an experience, a daily life that is different from your life remains strong aspirations”particularly in the wealthiest social and occupational groups.

Another strong trend for this changing consumer is his voracious appetite for online commerce. The principle of bringing to you quickly is what took you before longer. This is the rise of express trade, in particular, express delivery to buy food in less than 15 minutes. But also the purchase of leisure goods or clothing with just a click and have it, in a few days, in your mailbox or at your doorstep. One sign is the plethora of so-called physical stores, which have not returned to their pre-2019 level. Now, facing your screen, “You can also enjoy this pleasure by feeling more energetic and experienced with your purchases. The idea of ​​taking back control.” And to expand it … because the other essential value of utopian views lies in mutual assistance and cooperation. Or how to find meaning in an upside-down world.”

Utopian Perspective Observatory, March 2022.

Leave a Comment