Keywords: consumerism, askesis, mindfulness, well-being, Zen meditation, capitalism, Foucault, governmentality, biopolitics, sustainable consumption, sustainability, sustainable development, lifestyle change, climate change, green economics
Is there a role for contemporary practices of askesis in supporting a transition to sustainable consumption?
This article draws on recent Foucauldian scholarship and Michel Foucault's writings on askesis (from the Greek: ασκησιζ, askesis, 'exercise' or 'training') to explore the emerging role of contemporary mindfulness practices and associated teachings in advancing our understanding of consumerism and promoting sustainable consumption, as lifestyle change is forced up the international policy agenda by climate change (IPCC AR4, 2007). The article bridges a number of current concerns at the heart of green economics, namely the critique of consumption, well-being, mindfulness and an appreciation of the consumer-citizen as a site of critical opposition to consumerism as biopolitics. The article investigates Zen meditation practices as a contemporary form of askesis consistent with the transformations sought in our current relations with the material world as mediated by an all-pervasive culture of consumerism. The article draws on a series of interviews conducted by the author with noted Zen teachers based in the USA and Europe.