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    疫情是如何助推“無消費”經濟崛起的

    疫情是如何助推“無消費”經濟崛起的

    BETH KOWITT 2021年08月04日
    “無消費”小組其實并沒有導致人們不消費。

    鄰里間通過疫情中興起的本地“無消費”小組,彼此免費贈予和接受物品。圖片版權:GETTY IMAGES

    2018年,免費贈物的想法吸引了雷蒙娜?蒙特羅斯,于是她加入了洛杉磯當地的“無消費”(Buy Nothing)小組。她說:“賣東西是件麻煩事,我不想討價還價?!?她在 Facebook小組發布了不再使用的物品——孩子長大后不再適合的衣服和鞋、清理庭院時想處理掉的多肉植物——鄰居會在小組里認領,然后順便來她家取走。

    當時小組只有40名成員,蒙特羅斯很快就成了小組管理員,負責確認申請入組的成員住在規定的街區、清理垃圾貼文,還有組織活動和鼓勵人們互動。小組保持著相對較小的規模,到2020年初成員增長到約400名。

    接下來,新冠疫情爆發了。初期,由于成員對病毒傳播問題議論紛紛,于是商量關閉小組。到最后,他們決定寧愿在門廊或前廊與鄰居以物換物,也不去商店購物。蒙特羅斯認為,這么多人失業,經濟狀況又不穩定,保持“無消費”感覺是一種道德義務。

    雷蒙娜?蒙特羅斯通過“無消費”小組把蘆薈、玉米粉蒸肉和萬圣節怪物手送給了鄰居。加州克萊蒙特的一個小組會交換當作打火器的棉絮。圖片來源:雷蒙娜?蒙特羅斯和加州克萊蒙特“無消費”小組

    成員間贈予的玩具和童裝是大多數“無消費”小組主要的交換物品,但他們也交換疫情期間的必需品,如酸面團、口罩和手套、氣泡膜和紙箱。在附近克萊蒙特的一個小組,甚至出現了被用作打火器的干棉絮,有些計劃在疫情期間露營的人會來認領。而在托蘭斯,一個生日快樂的草坪標牌,被發到蒙特羅斯朋友經營的小組里廣為傳閱。蒙特羅斯說:“在最初的幾周里,疫情真的把大家聚集在一起?!?/p>

    一年后,這個由北好萊塢居民組成的小組已有1800多名成員,新增了7名管理員才能管理發帖。小組發展得如此之大,為避免變得過于臃腫,小組最近被一分為二了(這在“無消費”圈里被稱為“發芽”)。

    需要清楚說明地是,禮物經濟的興起,并不是洛杉磯的特有現象。從2020年3月到2021年1月,被發起人稱為社會運動的“無消費”活動新增了150萬名參與者,成員總計達到了400萬。在另一個理念相似的組織Freecycle,用戶發布的贈物帖在疫情期間增加了一倍。

    當人們被隔離而無法正常社交時做出的清理房間行為,以及疫情帶來的經濟不確定性,都在推動這場運動發展。但專家認為,在過去的一年半里,隨著人們坐在家中重新調整生活重心,大家的集體心理也發生了更深層的變化。研究消費行為的波士頓學院社會學教授、經濟學家朱麗葉?肖爾說:“人們對消費文化及其運轉方式越來越不滿,對造成的浪費,以及從購買到丟棄的循環過程也越來越感到厭倦?!彼Q,這是人們反思消費主義時發生的“主流變化”。

    瑞貝卡?洛克菲勒是“無消費”活動的聯合發起人,她認為禮物經濟的長久存在是有道理的?!斑@就是人類最初作為物種生存下來的方式?,F在重新發現它的價值很有意義,因為我們正處于社會發展的轉折點上,如何朝著未來的方向前進,我們需要做出很多思考,”她說。

    這種轉變在我的鄰里社區里也得到了體現:疫情期間,鄰居們成立了自己的“無消費”小組。有成員貢獻自行車、慢燉鍋和打印機,也有人同樣樂于接收剩下的生日蛋糕、外賣餐具、塑料吸血鬼牙齒和使用了一部分的牙膏。去年5月,社區里還出現了一個專門用來交換拼圖的本地Facebook群組——在當時,拼圖的需求旺盛,而且很難找到。我的公寓留言板上發布了各種贈物信息,包括家具、空調和在線購買雜貨時誤訂的多余食物。關注這些帖子讓我了解到身邊鄰居們正在發生的事,在很容易感到孤立無援的時候,這些信息提供了一個了解別人生活的窗口??吹酵瑯觽涫芗灏镜娜藗兌荚谧龀鲐暙I,這讓我充滿希望——而這,也是蒙特羅斯的經歷。她說:“這讓你感到更安全,感覺自己并不孤單。這是一種安慰?!?/p>

    加埃勒?巴爾甘-達里格對此做了一項研究,發現這種聯結感對“無消費”成員來說至關重要。波士頓學院的肖爾建議巴爾甘-達里格從邁阿密搬到新英格蘭鉆研社會學的博士課程,研究方向是消費和環境。當接受新鄰居建議去查看本地小組有什么物品能布置新家時,她對“無消費”活動產生了興趣——她為孩子挑選了物品,還有一把搖椅和布置陽臺的家具。

    巴爾甘-達里格想了解人們為何會加入其中,特別是在比較富裕的社區。對許多人來說,主要是擔心浪費,同時也希望避免扔掉有價值的東西;其他人則是擔心環境問題,或是有經濟需要。但當聽到人們談論從小組里獲得的主要價值時,她驚訝不已?!懊總€人都強調,這種做法營造了一種社區感,一種鄰里之間的團結感?!?/p>

    巴爾甘-達里格的研究里還有一個重要發現,那就是“無消費”小組其實并沒有導致人們不消費。盡管試圖限制和控制自己的消費,人們依然會購買新物品。

    或許,這正是“無消費”的重點,甚至是吸引力之所在。幾十年來,主流消費觀的替代方案總在文化中循環往復——比如自愿簡化消費、消費降級、極簡主義、返璞歸真的生活方式。但“無消費”理念更友好,更不走極端。參加這項活動并不會強迫任何人改變與資本主義或物質財富的關系,這有助于解釋為什么活動能在早期核心成員以外發展起來。莉斯爾?克拉克是“無消費”活動的另一位聯合發起人。她說:“你可以認為這是考慮可持續性的良心消費,但絕對也是一種消費行為。我們只是在分享資源,而不是一場節衣縮食的運動?!?/p>

    克拉克和洛克菲勒于2013年在華盛頓州班布里奇島發起了“無消費”活動,她們將其成長壯大的原因歸功于代際轉變。年輕的消費者更有可能不把二手商品視為一種禁忌,而是認為它們很酷且貨真價實。波士頓咨詢公司稱之為“轉售潮”,也進一步證明了這一點。該公司對轉售市場(如eBay、Poshmark和Depop)的估值高達4000萬美元,并預計未來五年內,每年還將增長20%。

    作為X世代,洛克菲勒是意識到氣候變化迫在眉睫的第一代人。她說,1970年代出生的嬉皮士后代所經歷的環?;顒油ǔUJ為人們必須受苦,才能讓世界變得更好?!斑@并非一條實現可持續變化的好路子,”她解釋說?!凹钊藗兏淖兣c物質關系的最好方法,是找到一種方式將人與人連接起來,并為整件事帶來歡樂和樂趣?!?/p>

    但也有人警告說,當蓬勃發展的禮物經濟所需的聯結感變得過于狹隘時,就會出現問題。新澤西理工學院研究可持續發展的教授莫里?科恩認為,有些人一開始愿意參與,可能只是因為他們想在社會經濟群體中進行交流。他說:“我們不能忽視社會階層分化的過程?!?/p>

    2018年,波士頓牙買加平原社區的一個無消費小組宣布將要“發芽”。上述擔憂變成了非常重要的問題,并導致人們對一分為二時可能帶來的種族主義和階級主義發出了譴責。洛克菲勒和克拉克說,這個“分水嶺時刻”讓她們開始反思,用硬性邊界分離社區,可能會延續結構性的種族主義。此后,她們建立了一個公平團隊,并給予本地社區更多自主權。當蒙特羅斯的小組“萌芽”時,她和其他管理員對成員進行了調查,并研究了人口數據和交通路線。然后,他們發布了全部信息供成員查看。

    我問蒙特羅斯,隨著疫情進入下一階段,她的小組活動是否會變少。她說:“我自己也在思考這個問題?!彼烙嫽顒涌赡軙啪?,但不會完全消失?!耙驗樗呀洺蔀榱巳藗兩畹囊徊糠??!?/p>

    有經濟學家預測,傳統消費在疫情之后將出現“反轉”,這可能會減弱人們對類似“無消費”運動的熱情。數據表明,人們已經在逐漸回歸原有習慣。消費者在去年的支出下降了3.9%,但此后已超過了疫情前水平。印第安納大學威爾明頓分校的人類學榮譽教授理查德?威爾克說:“經過很長時間的禁止外出用餐、飲酒和聚會后,人們通常會無節制地狂歡。這在我們的文化里已經存在幾百年了?!?/p>

    但他認為,即便是狂歡,人們如今也會在道德上保持克制。他說:“美國人是烏托邦式的思考者,也是狂野的派對動物。他們以一種奇怪的相互依賴關系走到一起。你無法離開另一個人?!保ㄘ敻恢形木W)

    譯者:Emily

    鄰里間通過疫情中興起的本地“無消費”小組,彼此免費贈予和接受物品。圖片版權:GETTY IMAGES

    2018年,免費贈物的想法吸引了雷蒙娜?蒙特羅斯,于是她加入了洛杉磯當地的“無消費”(Buy Nothing)小組。她說:“賣東西是件麻煩事,我不想討價還價?!?她在 Facebook小組發布了不再使用的物品——孩子長大后不再適合的衣服和鞋、清理庭院時想處理掉的多肉植物——鄰居會在小組里認領,然后順便來她家取走。

    當時小組只有40名成員,蒙特羅斯很快就成了小組管理員,負責確認申請入組的成員住在規定的街區、清理垃圾貼文,還有組織活動和鼓勵人們互動。小組保持著相對較小的規模,到2020年初成員增長到約400名。

    接下來,新冠疫情爆發了。初期,由于成員對病毒傳播問題議論紛紛,于是商量關閉小組。到最后,他們決定寧愿在門廊或前廊與鄰居以物換物,也不去商店購物。蒙特羅斯認為,這么多人失業,經濟狀況又不穩定,保持“無消費”感覺是一種道德義務。

    成員間贈予的玩具和童裝是大多數“無消費”小組主要的交換物品,但他們也交換疫情期間的必需品,如酸面團、口罩和手套、氣泡膜和紙箱。在附近克萊蒙特的一個小組,甚至出現了被用作打火器的干棉絮,有些計劃在疫情期間露營的人會來認領。而在托蘭斯,一個生日快樂的草坪標牌,被發到蒙特羅斯朋友經營的小組里廣為傳閱。蒙特羅斯說:“在最初的幾周里,疫情真的把大家聚集在一起?!?/p>

    一年后,這個由北好萊塢居民組成的小組已有1800多名成員,新增了7名管理員才能管理發帖。小組發展得如此之大,為避免變得過于臃腫,小組最近被一分為二了(這在“無消費”圈里被稱為“發芽”)。

    需要清楚說明地是,禮物經濟的興起,并不是洛杉磯的特有現象。從2020年3月到2021年1月,被發起人稱為社會運動的“無消費”活動新增了150萬名參與者,成員總計達到了400萬。在另一個理念相似的組織Freecycle,用戶發布的贈物帖在疫情期間增加了一倍。

    當人們被隔離而無法正常社交時做出的清理房間行為,以及疫情帶來的經濟不確定性,都在推動這場運動發展。但專家認為,在過去的一年半里,隨著人們坐在家中重新調整生活重心,大家的集體心理也發生了更深層的變化。研究消費行為的波士頓學院社會學教授、經濟學家朱麗葉?肖爾說:“人們對消費文化及其運轉方式越來越不滿,對造成的浪費,以及從購買到丟棄的循環過程也越來越感到厭倦?!彼Q,這是人們反思消費主義時發生的“主流變化”。

    瑞貝卡?洛克菲勒是“無消費”活動的聯合發起人,她認為禮物經濟的長久存在是有道理的?!斑@就是人類最初作為物種生存下來的方式?,F在重新發現它的價值很有意義,因為我們正處于社會發展的轉折點上,如何朝著未來的方向前進,我們需要做出很多思考,”她說。

    這種轉變在我的鄰里社區里也得到了體現:疫情期間,鄰居們成立了自己的“無消費”小組。有成員貢獻自行車、慢燉鍋和打印機,也有人同樣樂于接收剩下的生日蛋糕、外賣餐具、塑料吸血鬼牙齒和使用了一部分的牙膏。去年5月,社區里還出現了一個專門用來交換拼圖的本地Facebook群組——在當時,拼圖的需求旺盛,而且很難找到。我的公寓留言板上發布了各種贈物信息,包括家具、空調和在線購買雜貨時誤訂的多余食物。關注這些帖子讓我了解到身邊鄰居們正在發生的事,在很容易感到孤立無援的時候,這些信息提供了一個了解別人生活的窗口??吹酵瑯觽涫芗灏镜娜藗兌荚谧龀鲐暙I,這讓我充滿希望——而這,也是蒙特羅斯的經歷。她說:“這讓你感到更安全,感覺自己并不孤單。這是一種安慰?!?/p>

    加埃勒?巴爾甘-達里格對此做了一項研究,發現這種聯結感對“無消費”成員來說至關重要。波士頓學院的肖爾建議巴爾甘-達里格從邁阿密搬到新英格蘭鉆研社會學的博士課程,研究方向是消費和環境。當接受新鄰居建議去查看本地小組有什么物品能布置新家時,她對“無消費”活動產生了興趣——她為孩子挑選了物品,還有一把搖椅和布置陽臺的家具。

    巴爾甘-達里格想了解人們為何會加入其中,特別是在比較富裕的社區。對許多人來說,主要是擔心浪費,同時也希望避免扔掉有價值的東西;其他人則是擔心環境問題,或是有經濟需要。但當聽到人們談論從小組里獲得的主要價值時,她驚訝不已?!懊總€人都強調,這種做法營造了一種社區感,一種鄰里之間的團結感?!?/p>

    巴爾甘-達里格的研究里還有一個重要發現,那就是“無消費”小組其實并沒有導致人們不消費。盡管試圖限制和控制自己的消費,人們依然會購買新物品。

    或許,這正是“無消費”的重點,甚至是吸引力之所在。幾十年來,主流消費觀的替代方案總在文化中循環往復——比如自愿簡化消費、消費降級、極簡主義、返璞歸真的生活方式。但“無消費”理念更友好,更不走極端。參加這項活動并不會強迫任何人改變與資本主義或物質財富的關系,這有助于解釋為什么活動能在早期核心成員以外發展起來。莉斯爾?克拉克是“無消費”活動的另一位聯合發起人。她說:“你可以認為這是考慮可持續性的良心消費,但絕對也是一種消費行為。我們只是在分享資源,而不是一場節衣縮食的運動?!?/p>

    克拉克和洛克菲勒于2013年在華盛頓州班布里奇島發起了“無消費”活動,她們將其成長壯大的原因歸功于代際轉變。年輕的消費者更有可能不把二手商品視為一種禁忌,而是認為它們很酷且貨真價實。波士頓咨詢公司稱之為“轉售潮”,也進一步證明了這一點。該公司對轉售市場(如eBay、Poshmark和Depop)的估值高達4000萬美元,并預計未來五年內,每年還將增長20%。

    作為X世代,洛克菲勒是意識到氣候變化迫在眉睫的第一代人。她說,1970年代出生的嬉皮士后代所經歷的環?;顒油ǔUJ為人們必須受苦,才能讓世界變得更好?!斑@并非一條實現可持續變化的好路子,”她解釋說?!凹钊藗兏淖兣c物質關系的最好方法,是找到一種方式將人與人連接起來,并為整件事帶來歡樂和樂趣?!?/p>

    但也有人警告說,當蓬勃發展的禮物經濟所需的聯結感變得過于狹隘時,就會出現問題。新澤西理工學院研究可持續發展的教授莫里?科恩認為,有些人一開始愿意參與,可能只是因為他們想在社會經濟群體中進行交流。他說:“我們不能忽視社會階層分化的過程?!?/p>

    2018年,波士頓牙買加平原社區的一個無消費小組宣布將要“發芽”。上述擔憂變成了非常重要的問題,并導致人們對一分為二時可能帶來的種族主義和階級主義發出了譴責。洛克菲勒和克拉克說,這個“分水嶺時刻”讓她們開始反思,用硬性邊界分離社區,可能會延續結構性的種族主義。此后,她們建立了一個公平團隊,并給予本地社區更多自主權。當蒙特羅斯的小組“萌芽”時,她和其他管理員對成員進行了調查,并研究了人口數據和交通路線。然后,他們發布了全部信息供成員查看。

    我問蒙特羅斯,隨著疫情進入下一階段,她的小組活動是否會變少。她說:“我自己也在思考這個問題?!彼烙嫽顒涌赡軙啪?,但不會完全消失?!耙驗樗呀洺蔀榱巳藗兩畹囊徊糠??!?/p>

    有經濟學家預測,傳統消費在疫情之后將出現“反轉”,這可能會減弱人們對類似“無消費”運動的熱情。數據表明,人們已經在逐漸回歸原有習慣。消費者在去年的支出下降了3.9%,但此后已超過了疫情前水平。印第安納大學威爾明頓分校的人類學榮譽教授理查德?威爾克說:“經過很長時間的禁止外出用餐、飲酒和聚會后,人們通常會無節制地狂歡。這在我們的文化里已經存在幾百年了?!?/p>

    但他認為,即便是狂歡,人們如今也會在道德上保持克制。他說:“美國人是烏托邦式的思考者,也是狂野的派對動物。他們以一種奇怪的相互依賴關系走到一起。你無法離開另一個人?!保ㄘ敻恢形木W)

    譯者:Emily

    Ramona Monteros joined her local Buy Nothing group in Los Angeles in 2018, drawn to the idea of giving things away. “Selling is a hassle,” she says. “I didn’t want to deal with negotiations.” She’d post on the Facebook group’s message board items she no longer had use for—clothes and shoes that her kids had outgrown, succulents when she would thin out her yard—that her neighbors would claim and then swing by to pick up.

    At the time, the group had just 40 members, and Monteros soon became its admin—making certain those requesting membership lived in the group’s defined neighborhood, ensuring spam didn’t get posted, and generally encouraging and stewarding the group. It stayed relatively small and mellow, growing to about 400 members by early 2020.

    Then the pandemic hit. In its early days, as questions swirled over how the virus spread, members discussed shutting the group down. In the end, they decided they would rather exchange goods with their neighbors outside on a porch or front stoop rather than go into a store. Monteros says with so many people out of work and on shaky financial footing, continuing felt like a moral imperative.

    Members gave and received the likes of toys and kids’ clothes, the bread and butter of most Buy Nothing groups. But they also exchanged staples of the pandemic—things like sourdough starter, masks and gloves, bubble wrap, and cardboard boxes. In a group in nearby Claremont, even dryer lint, used as fire starter, got claimed by would-be campers looking for a COVID-friendly vacation. In Torrance, a happy birthday lawn sign got passed around a group run by Monteros’s friend. “Something about the whole trauma of the first few weeks really brought everyone together,” says Monteros.

    A year later, Monteros’s group made up of North Hollywood residents had catapulted to more than 1,800 members and added seven other admins to keep up with the volume of posts. The group grew so big that it recently split in two (called “sprouting” in Buy Nothing circles) to keep it from getting too unwieldy.

    Let’s be clear—the rise of the so-called gift economy is no L.A. fad. Between March 2020 and January 2021, the Buy Nothing Project, described by its founders as a social movement rather than an organization or nonprofit, added 1.5 million participants to hit 4 million members. At Freecycle, a similar concept, posts by users looking to give away their stuff went up by 100% during the pandemic.

    The collective cleaning out of closets that took place while people quarantined and socially isolated has fueled the movement, as has the economic uncertainty the pandemic wrought. But experts say there’s also something deeper within our collective psyche that shifted in the past year and a half as people sat at home and realigned their priorities. “There’s a growing dis-ease with consumer culture and the way it operates,” says Juliet Schor, an economist and Boston College sociology professor who studies consumption. “The wastefulness, the cycle of acquisition and discard, is increasingly unappealing to people.” She calls this a “mainstreaming change” in how people think about consumerism.

    Rebecca Rockefeller, cofounder of the Buy Nothing Project, says the gift economy has been around forever for a reason. “This is how we originally survived as a species,” she says. “It makes sense that it’s something that we are rediscovering the value of now, because we’re at one of those inflection points in society where we have a lot of thinking to do about how we’re going to move forward if we're all going to make it.”

    That shift was something that took hold in my neighborhood, which launched its own Buy Nothing group in the middle of the pandemic. People offered up bicycles and Crock-Pots and printers. But members just as eagerly claimed the leftover birthday cakes, takeout utensils, plastic vampire teeth, and partially used toothpaste. Last May, a local Facebook group popped up designed just for exchanging jigsaw puzzles at a time when they were in high demand and hard to find. My apartment building’s message board buzzed with offers of furniture, air conditioners, and extra food when online grocery orders had gone awry. Following the posts gave me a sense of what was happening with my neighbors and a window into their lives when it was easy to feel isolated. It kept me hopeful, seeing how people gave even while they also struggled. It was something Monteros experienced too. “It makes you feel more secure,” she says. “You’re not just by yourself out there. It’s comforting.”

    Ga?lle Bargain-Darrigues has conducted research showing that sense of connection is key to Buy Nothing members. Bargain-Darrigues, whom Schor advises at Boston College, moved to New England from Miami to start a doctoral program in sociology with a focus on consumption and the environment. She got interested in the Buy Nothing Project when her new neighbors suggested she check out the local group to furnish her home—she picked up a few things for her kid, a rocking chair, and furniture for her balcony.

    Bargain-Darrigues wanted to understand why participants joined, especially in neighborhoods where people were well-off. For many the motivation was a concern about waste and a desire to avoid throwing away anything with worth. Others were worried about the environment or had an economic need. But she was surprised to hear the main value people got out of the group: “Everyone highlighted that it really created a sense of community, a sense of solidarity among neighbors,” she says.

    In another key finding, Bargain-Darrigues’s research showed that Buy Nothing groups did not actually lead people to buy nothing. People still purchased new things, even though they were trying to constrain and control their consumption.

    That may be precisely the point and even the appeal of the Buy Nothing Project. Alternatives to mainstream consumption have cycled through our culture for decades—voluntary simplifiers, downshifters, minimalists, simplicity circles. But the Buy Nothing Project is a kinder, less extreme version by design. Participating doesn’t force anyone to shift their relationship with capitalism or material possessions all that much, which helps explain why it has spread beyond the hard-core early adopters. “You could say this is consumption with conscience, with sustainability in mind, but it is absolutely consumption. We’re just sharing the resources,” says Liesl Clark, Rockefeller’s Buy Nothing Project cofounder. “It’s not a movement of austerity.”

    Clark and Rockefeller founded the Buy Nothing Project in 2013 in Bainbridge Island, Wash., and credit part of its growth to a generational shift. Younger consumers are more likely to view used goods as cool and authentic rather than taboo, further evidenced by what Boston Consulting Group calls the “resale boom.” The resale market (think eBay, Poshmark, and Depop) is valued at as much as $40 million by BCG and is expected to grow 20% annually for the next five years.

    As a Gen Xer, Rockefeller is part of the first generation to grow up aware of the looming threat of climate change. The environmental activism she experienced as a child of hippies in the 1970s was based on the idea that people must suffer to make things better, she says. “That's not a great path to sustainable change,” she explains. “The best way to inspire people to shift their relationship with stuff was to find a way to connect people to each other and to bring some joy and a sense of fun to the whole thing.”

    Some warn, however, that there’s a risk when the sense of connection needed for a thriving gift economy becomes too insular. Maurie Cohen, a professor of sustainability studies at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, says some may only be willing to participate in the first place because they are making exchanges within their socioeconomic group. “We can’t dismiss the process of stratification,” he says.

    These concerns were front and center in a Buy Nothing group in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood in 2018 when it announced it would sprout, leading to accusations of racism and classism over how the split might happen. Rockefeller and Clark say the “watershed moment” led them to reflect on how separating neighborhoods through hard boundaries could perpetuate structural racism. They’ve since put together an equity team and given more autonomy to local communities. When Monteros’s group sprouted, she and the other admins polled members and examined demographic data and transportation routes. They then posted all the information they collected for members to see.

    I asked Monteros whether she thinks activity in her group will wane as the pandemic enters its next phase. “I’ve been wondering that myself,” she told me. She predicts that it might slow down a little bit but that it won’t go away completely. “It has become part of people’s lives.”

    Some economists are forecasting that post-pandemic there will be a “snap back” in traditional consumption, which could hinder the enthusiasm for movements like the Buy Nothing Project. The data suggests people are already returning to their old habits. Consumer spending declined 3.9% last year but has since surpassed pre-pandemic levels. “When people are forcibly restrained from eating, drinking, and partying for a long time, they have a wild binge,” says Richard Wilk, a professor emeritus in anthropology at Indiana University Wilmington. “That has been embedded in our culture for hundreds of years.”

    But the other thing that happens during a binge, he says, is people moralize and plead restraint. “Americans are utopian thinkers as well as wild party animals,” he says, “and I think they go together in a strange mutual dependence. You can’t have one without the other.”

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