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Degrowth Conference Budapest, 2016 - Alternatives to Enculturation of Children into Consumers

Madalina Balau

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Budapest Conference 2016


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Presentation by Madalina Balau

In Romania all parents want to offer their children a better life and a better future, sometimes with their own sacrifice, yet the years following communist regime have brought unsustainable development, present in environmental degradation and social insecurity. After living in communism and knowing how bad it was, people have been accustoming for the last 26 years, to accept the lesser evil, and all critics to current capitalism and democracy are seen as communist nostalgia. I believe Degrowth can open the debate and stop seeing reality in dual terms – evil and good, or evil and less evil - and I try to explore this possibility here. The purpose of this paper is to understand, from parents perspective, the way consumer culture has impacted childhood and produced changes in their children’s lives. This will enable identifying lessons for a good life, from both communist regime and consumer culture childhoods. The study is based on interviews conducted with adults born in Romania during the communist regime, that lived at least some part of their childhood then, and who are now parents. The present findings suggest that parents see their children offered more opportunities of buying products and services, more activities to attend and more wishes to fulfill. This comes at the expense of less time for family and lost connections with the extended family, less freedom to play and less freedom to refuse consuming certain products due to peer pressure. These are identified mainly as a paradox, since in appearance we have more freedom, but time pressure and the lack of financial means to attend certain activities makes this freedom impossible to obtain in individual lives.

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