VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich by Duane Elgin

VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich

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Elgin, a former associate of the Stanford Research Institute, draws upon a questionnaire to describe--with predictably drab results--people from all age groups and all parts of the country who have remained loyal to the values of the Sixties counterculture. This small but influential minority, we're told, has turned to natural food, recycling, cooperative projects, anti-consumerism, non-sexist relationships; to interest in psychology, spirituality, holistic medicine, and political causes like the antinuclear or environmental movements. They wish to combat pollution, waste, nuclear proliferation, poverty in developing nations, inflation, ""social alienation and spiritual impoverishment."" And though Elgin, understandably, is all for them, in his hands their way of life loses all appeal. Instead of eliciting testimony, he makes pompous pronouncements (""To live with simplicity is to unburden our lives--to live more lightly, cleanly, aerodynamically""), restates the obvious (""unless we are conscious of our passage through daily life, we run on automatic""), and sometimes waxes downright silly (""simplicity is evident in our communications when we begin to let go of idle gossip and wasteful speech""). On the one occasion, indeed, when Elgin does quote his respondents (in Chapter Two), their dissatisfactions are more interesting and revealing than their satisfactions: ""Everything takes longer--cooking, buying, fixing""; ""outward appearances suggest poverty, and this culture is very discriminatory towards the poor."" But overall his profile of the counterculture's saving remnant is stale stuff, while many, many writers have put across their credo more convincingly.

Pub Date: July 8th, 1981
Publisher: Morrow