Out of the Great Recession: The Conditions for Prosperity Beyond Individualism and Consumerism

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


While pursuing its ideal of autonomy and material prosperity, modernity has found in capitalism a strong ally for its project of the greatest happiness of the greatest number. During the last decades, such a project has been extended on a global scale thanks to the alliance of economic neoliberalism and political individualism, which conflated the ideal of the citizen into the reality of the individual consumer. The chapter claims that the crisis can enlighten some serious shortcomings of the socio-anthropological view at the foundation of the modern project. In fact, moving from Arendt’s as well as Simmel’s critical notes on individualism and consumption, it is possible to show that the process of economic expansion through individual liberation on the one hand and the systemic exploitation of desires through consumption on the other hand ended up in a condition of personal discontent and collective inequality, which threatens the very possibility of prosperity and autonomy for many. In conclusion, using Simmel’s and Arendt's criticism and the concept of social generativity, we will tentatively explore a different vision of individual freedom, one that can constitute a more reliable socio-anthropological ground upon which a much-needed new model of growth may be built.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Crisis Conundrum: How To Reconcile Economy And Society
EditorsMauro Magatti
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Capitalism
  • Consumerism
  • Individualism
  • Modernity


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