Voluntary Simplicity

Dorothy Leonard-Barton, Stanford University
Everett M. Rogers, Stanford University
ABSTRACT - This paper presents an index of behavior designed to measure an individual's tendency towards a Voluntary Simplicity lifestyle. We emphasize selected behaviors leading to increased self-sufficiency or reduced consumption and note the significance of their adoption for migration and purchasing patterns.
[ to cite ]:
Dorothy Leonard-Barton and Everett M. Rogers (1980) ,"Voluntary Simplicity", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 07, eds. Jerry C. Olson, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 28-34.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 7, 1980     Pages 28-34

VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY

Dorothy Leonard-Barton, Stanford University

Everett M. Rogers, Stanford University

[Research Associate in Communication Research, and Janet M. Peck Professor of International Communication, respectively, Stanford University.]

ABSTRACT -

This paper presents an index of behavior designed to measure an individual's tendency towards a Voluntary Simplicity lifestyle. We emphasize selected behaviors leading to increased self-sufficiency or reduced consumption and note the significance of their adoption for migration and purchasing patterns.

RESEARCH OBJECTIVES

Over the past two years, a series of studies have been conducted at the Institute for Communication Research, Stanford University, to explore "voluntary simplicity," a philosophy of life which has potentially widespread implications for consumption patterns in the U.S.

Our objectives in this research have been:

1.  To develop an index of behaviors indicative of at least one aspect of voluntary simplicity.

2.  To determine the characteristics of people scoring high on the voluntary index.

3.  To determine what implications the concept of voluntary simplicity has for consumption patterns in the U.S.

THE HISTORY OF VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY

The term "voluntary simplicity" was coined by Richard Gregg in 1936. Gregg (1936) wrote:

Voluntary simplicity...means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, as well as avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the chief purpose of life. It means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions...The degree of simplification is a matter of each individual to settle for himself.

Gregg's formulation of the concept, and some philosophical writings about voluntary simplicity that were published since, are reminiscent of teaching by many of the world's religious leaders. While many modern-day advocates of this conservation-oriented lifestyle believe that a spiritual dimension is essential to voluntary simplicity, the secular implications have perhaps attracted more attention. Economist E. F. Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful, [E. F. Schumacher's last book, A Guide for the Perplexed, placed heavy emphasis on the spiritual side of VS.] and "soft energy" advocate Amory Lovins have drawn tremendous audiences by proposing scaled-down living styles, the decentralization of industry, and living in harmony with nature, as panaceas for the Western world's underemployment and over-consumption.

Noting the attention given to such authors and the numerous counter-culture trends in contemporary society, researchers Arnold Mitchell and Duane Elgin (1976) at SRI International, published a report in which they attempted to identify what they considered to be "an underlying coherence to the rich diversity of expression of this way of life." In this monograph, which has received much interest in the business world, Elgin and Mitchell selected five basic values which they felt lie at the heart of a voluntary simplicity lifestyle:

- Material simplicity (non-consumption oriented patterns of use)

- Human scale (a desire for smaller-scale institutions and technologies)

- Self-determination (desire to assume greater control over personal destiny)

- Ecological awareness (recognition of the interdependency of people and resources)

- Personal growth (a desire to explore and develop the "inner life")

We define voluntary simplicity as the degree to which an individual consciously chooses a way of life intended to maximize the individual's control over his/her own life. [Duane Elgin's definition differs from ours. He defines VS as "living more choicefully and directly."] We stress that this choice is voluntary; for example, a low-consumption and low-energy lifestyle is often selected by individuals who are financially able to afford a more luxurious way of living. Individuals relatively high in voluntary simplicity seek to minimize their dependency on institutions they cannot control (such as government, oil companies, and large agribusiness food companies) and to maximize their harmony with nature. Voluntary simplicity is a matter of degree; individuals vary on this concept from a Manhattan business executive to a commune resident near Taos, New Mexico. One motivation for counter-stream migration in the U.S. may be a desire for greater voluntary simplicity.

Some observers of Western culture feel that what they perceive to be an increased emphasis on such values among U.S. citizens constitutes a social movement in the U.S. Amory Lovins (1977) wrote: "Such values as thrift, simplicity, diversity, neighborliness, humility and craftsmanship...are already...embodied in a substantial social movement, camouflaged by its very pervasiveness." National polls offering evidence of shifting attitudes in the U.S. lend some credence to the idea that some type of voluntary simplicity is on the increase. A 1976 Roper poll found that about half the Americans surveyed felt that Americans "must cut back" on production and consumption. In 1977, Harris polls reported that by 79 to 17 percent, Americans would place greater emphasis on "teaching people how to live more with basic essentials" than on "reaching higher standards of living." In this same poll, the public indicated (66 to 22 percent), it would choose "breaking up big things and getting back to more humanized living" over "developing bigger and more efficient ways of doing things."

These polls, however, are only indirect measures of voluntary simplicity (VS) and in fact some VS adherents are suspicious of what people say they want and will do, as opposed to their actual behavior. In Elgin and Mitchell's (1977) article about voluntary simplicity in The Co-Evolution Quarterly, a magazine offshoot of the Whole Earth Catalogue, the authors cited the 1977 Harris poll as evidence that U.S. citizens are sympathetic to VS. Following the Elgin and Mitchell piece, VS advocate Michael Phillips voiced his skepticism in a critical comment entitled "SRI Is Wrong About Voluntary Simplicity." The major points made in this rebuttal to the Elgin and Mitchell article were that "Americans are both frugal and gross consumers at the same time...Money is saved to spend." Inflation, the author maintained, is the real motivation behind the apparent willingness of Americans to cut back (Phillips, 1977). Anne Herbert took the criticism a step further by noting that "There's no way of knowing if [the Harris poll data] represents a change in what people say rather than do" (Herbert, 1977). Of course even a change in what people say may be a precursor to a change in behavior. Since there are no questions out of a 1950 survey which could be compared directly with those in the Harris polls, it is not possible to determine exactly how much of a shift in public opinion has taken place in the past decades.

Elgin and Mitchell believe that probably about one-half of the American population is unaware, indifferent, or opposed to VS; that a large fraction of the total population -- perhaps as much as one-half -- sympathize with the aims of VS, and that maybe three percent of the adults in the U.S. (about four or five million) live a wholehearted life of voluntary simplicity. By "whole-hearted," the researchers appear to have in mind individuals who regularly engage in a large number of characteristic behaviors, such as:

- giving away or selling unnecessary possessions which cause clutter in their lives (e.g., electric can openers).

- consuming simple, easy-to-repair goods which are durable, aesthetic, and made of natural materials.

- eating simple, healthy foods (perhaps home-grown).

- using transportation more efficiently (e.g. biking busing, car-pooling).

- participating in altruistic political movements (e.g., neighborhood food co-ops).

- drawing support from non-traditional extended family networks and a sense of community.

Those who fully adopt such behaviors may have little direct influence on the "mainstream" population, since they may be perceived as too deviant to be opinion leaders for the general public.

However, as we will demonstrate, some of the behaviors espoused by extreme voluntary simplicity people are diffusing through our society, and the implications of that diffusion are profound. While we will not review the common debate over whether attitude change precedes or follows behavioral change, [See Bem (1970) and Kiesler and others (1967) for a discussion of whether overt behavior or attitude change comes first.] we note that receptivity to VS lifestyles could diffuse through society by the widespread adoption of certain overt behaviors perhaps as readily as by the acceptance of a VS-based ideology. [See Leonard-Barton and Rogers (1979) for illustrations of how energy-conserving practices diffused through a Palo Alto neighborhood and for a discussion of the role of peer pressure in the diffusion of energy conservation.] In the studies reported herein, we have not explored all aspects of VS. Our interest in voluntary simplicity grew out of our research on energy conservation. Therefore we have concentrated most of our attention on only one of a number of major dimensions of VS suggested by Duane Elgin (forthcoming, 1980), namely "consumption levels and patterns that are more frugal, ecologically conscious, sensitive to global needs, and energy-conserving."

Our studies of voluntary simplicity differ from most other research on the subject about which we are aware, in at least three major ways:

1.  We have not assumed that a set of cohesive values consistently underlies voluntary simplicity behaviors.

Rather, as we will demonstrate later, we find there are underlying dimensions, or behavior clusters, engaged in for diverse reasons. The more behaviors engaged in, we hypothesize, the more sympathy one has for a voluntary simplicity lifestyle, but there are numerous different motives which can lead to a common behavior.

2.  We sought empirical evidence of leanings towards voluntary simplicity by focusing on overt behavior rather than on attitudes.

3.  We concentrated on the intersection of VS behavior patterns with "mainstream" lifestyles in California, rather than with radical lifestyles.

"Mainstream" behavior in the San Francisco Bay Area may seem innovative to middle America, and many widespread social movements have been born on the West Coast and diffused eastward. [Descriptions of the hippie movement's origin are provided by Wolfe (1968) and Haley (1969).] The behavior of innovative but not "far-out" Palo Alto residents may, therefore, foretell the future behavior of residents in St. Louis or Ames, or Indianapolis.

While innovators are not always opinion leaders, "it is only necessary for a certain proportion of the innovators to also exert interpersonal influence in order for the diffusion effect to begin to operate, and the innovation to diffuse throughout the rest of society" (Midgley, 1977, p. 72).

DATA SOURCES

In addition to a review of the literature on voluntary simplicity, we have drawn upon five data sets (four of which are based on populations which are above average in income) to develop and test a voluntary simplicity index.

1.  The Palo Alto Index Study (N = 215)

The original nine-item index of voluntary simplicity was pretested on 25 Palo Alto residents and then administered to 215 Palo Alto homeowners in the course of a survey about water and energy conservation that we conducted with funding from the Institute of Energy Studies, Stanford University, in Spring, 1977. All respondents were interviewed personally in their homes. Interviewers therefore had the opportunity to verify many of the reported behaviors (e.g., gardening, recycling).

2.  Solar Pretest (N = 25)

As a preliminary to the Solar Diffusion Study (described shortly), 25 San Francisco Bay Area homeowners who had installed solar heating for their domestic water supply or for their swimming pools were interviewed for an hour at depth in Spring, 1978. As one part of the structured interview, they responded to the original nine-item voluntary simplicity index.

3.  Elgin and Mitchell's Survey by Letter (N about 200) and questionnaire (N = 423)

At the end of their article on voluntary simplicity in The Co-Evolution Quarterly, Elgin and Mitchell (1977) solicited answers to a brief questionnaire from readers who were living a life of voluntary simplicity, and encouraged these respondents to tell how and why they had chosen this lifestyle. Almost two-thirds of the responses came from people living in suburban or urban settings, so many of the behaviors were appropriate for our San Francisco Bay Area respondents. Drawing upon the data provided by these letters and questionnaires, we were able to expand our nine-item VS index to 19 behaviors, still concentrating, however, on those actions which seemed to have the most direct implications for consumption patterns. [The authors are indebted to Duane Elgin for his advice in the preparation of our expanded 19-item VS index and for his generosity in sharing the data he received. For a full discussion of VS, see Duane Elgin, Voluntary Simplicity, N.Y.: William Morrow, forthcoming in 1980.]

4.  The Solar Diffusion Study (N = 215)

In Spring, 1979, 111 San Francisco Bay Area homeowners who had installed solar heating equipment for their swimming pools, their domestic water supply, or for space heat, were interviewed in their homes. [None of these respondents had been interviewed in the previously mentioned studies.] At the same time, we interviewed 104 of their neighbors, who did not have solar equipment. These data from the combined sample of 215 respondents provided the basis for a factor analysis of the 19-item index and a test of its usefulness in delineating purchase patterns.

5.  Follow-Up Interviews (N = 6)

Finally, six of the respondents in the 1977 Palo Alto study who had scored very high on the original VS index were re-interviewed in 1979, so that we would determine (1) whether their VS behaviors were maintained over time, and (2) the major motives for engaging in these behaviors.

The data from these five studies provided the basis for our development of the VS index, as explained in the following section.

THE VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY INDEX

1.  The Original VS Index

The first version of the VS Index, which was used in the Palo Alto Study and the Solar Pretest, contained nine items (Table 1).

TABLE 1

THE NINE ITEMS IN THE ORIGINAL VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY INDEX (N = 215)

[THE FREQUENCIES ARE DRAWN FROM THE 1977 PALO ALTO STUDY.]

[The Briarpatch grocery stores are consumer owned and operated. Member families pledge at least four hours work a month to package, shelf and price produce.]

The nine items measured a wide range of VS behaviors. Gardeners are not necessarily vegetarians, nor do they necessarily buy second-hand clothes. We also recognize that when these behaviors are considered individually, the motives behind the acts may be very different. A gardener may garden for recreation; a vegetarian may eschew meat for religious reasons; a person may buy clothes at a second-hand store for purely economic reasons.

While (except for recycling) the items represented quite different behaviors, we expected to find that some VS behaviors clustered together, suggesting an underlying motive common to those behaviors in the cluster. Presumably the more of these behavior clusters that an individual engaged in, the more his/her lifestyle patterns conformed to voluntary simplicity, whether or not he/she consciously identified with the set of values which Elgin and Mitchell, Lovins, and other scholars have suggested underlie the concept of VS.

When responses to the nine-items were examined by means of a varimax rotated factor analysis, four behavior clusters (or factors) emerged (Table 2).

1.  The recycling of resources

- Recycling newspapers

- Recycling glass jars

- Recycling aluminum cans

2.  The recycling of goods (durables)

- Purchase second-hand clothes

- Purchase large items at garage sales

3.  Vegetarianism, or reduced consumption of energy-expensive foods

- Belong to Briarpatch co-operatives

- Plan meatless main meals

4.  Self-sufficiency

- Exchange goods or services

- Grow 25 percent or more of family vegetables

TABLE 2

LOADINGS IN VARIMAX ROTATED FACTOR MATRIX OF ITEMS IN THE ORIGINAL NINE-ITEM VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY INDEX

[This factor analysis is based on data from the 215 respondents in the 1977 Palo Alto Study. Factor loadings less than .676 are not shown in this table for purposes of clarity.]

As one might expect, all types of recycling (cans, bottles, newspapers) loaded on one factor; individuals who recycled one were likely to recycle all three, although newspapers were the easiest and most popular to recycle. Considering that Briarpatch food markets carry many vegetarian specialties and organically grown produce, it is logical that this item (belonging to a Briarpatch, or other cooperative grocery store) loaded along with planning at least one meatless main meal a week. These items jointly reflect an interest in natural foods and a desire for alternatives to a diet of meat.

Buying clothes at a second-hand store and purchasing major items of furniture at a garage sale loaded together. These items seem to be measuring an interest in recycling goods, whether for economic reasons (to save money) or philosophical (to de-emphasize both fashion-style considerations and the American love of the newest and best).

Another pair of items which loaded together measured the exchange of services in lieu of money payments (e.g., babysitting co-op) and raising more than 25 percent of the family's vegetables. People may join cooperatives and exchange services for purely economic reasons; gardeners may raise food for recreation or because they feel home-grown produce is better, or because growing food at home is economical. Taken together, however, these two items may tap yet another dimension of voluntary simplicity: Self-sufficiency.

2.  The Expanded VS Index

The expanded version of the VS Index, which contained 19 items, [While the original nine items were retained, their working was somewhat altered in some cases in this expanded index, e.g., the "Briarpatch" identification was dropped in favor of a more generally recognized term.] was tested in the Solar Diffusion Study and the Follow-Up interviews, and is presently being used in a study of beverage choices in supermarkets. [This investigation of 150 buyers in four San Francisco Bay Area co-op grocery stores examines the effect of labeling beverage containers with the degree to which they are recyclable.] As noted previously, an analysis of over 600 letters and questionnaires from individuals who are self-proclaimed advocates of voluntary simplicity provided the additional items for the 19-item Index (Table 3).

TABLE 3

ITEMS IN THE EXPANDED (19-ITEM) VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY INDEX (N = 215)

[The frequencies are from the Solar Diffusion Study and include both the adopters' and nonadopters' responses. The items are presented in order of the frequency of responses. Some of the acts reported by the fewest people (e.g., biking to work) are at least partially dependent upon individual situations.]

[The time frame for these items is "within the past year."]

These 19 items were subjected to the same varimax rotated factor analysis as those in the original 9-item index. While the factors which emerged were, of course, somewhat different because many new behaviors had been added to the Index, the nine original items loaded in almost identical patterns. Moreover, the factors or dimensions which emerged for the expanded study were very similar, if more numerous, than those found in the first study (Table 4).

Some of the major differences between the factors which emerged in analysis of the expanded index and those of the original index are attributable to changes in the wording of items. For example, the omission of the identification "Briarpatch" from the item about cooperatives evidently lessened the connotation of vegetarianism; the item "belonging to a cooperative organization" split between factors, sometimes loading

TABLE 4

LOADINGS IN THE VARIMAX ROTATED FACTOR MATRIX OF ITEMS IN THE EXPANDED (19-ITEM) VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY INDEX

[Factor loadings less than .299 are not shown in this table for purposes of clarity.]

with health-related behaviors such as planning meatless meals, and sometimes with the factor measuring creative labor (probably because some cooperatives were food or garden co-ops). Other differences are due to the increased number of items in the expanded scale. For instance, "Exchanging goods or services in lieu of payment'' loaded with several of the added items such as "Taking classes to increase self-reliance," and "Changing the oil in the car;" both behaviors increase individual independence from expensive services.

To check the robustness of the factors, a similar factor analysis was run on the two subpopulations of solar adopters and nonadopters; the factors which emerged were almost identical, as were the loadings of the various items.

PROFILE OF THOSE LEADING A LIFE OF "PARTIAL" VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY

Elgin and Mitchell (1976) estimated that eight to ten million people may be "partial" adherents to VS. Since no attempts have been made to measure these leanings towards VS beyond the attitudinal questions posed in the Harris and other opinion polls, these are just estimates. We obtained some idea, however, of the potential population which may adopt VS behaviors in the near future by interpreting the characteristics of our respondents who ranked high on the VS index.

Consistently, across samples, such high-voluntary simplicity individuals are young (40 or younger) and highly educated. The relationship between VS scores and income depends upon the range in income within each population. Since none of the studies on VS to date has dealt with a low income population, no certain conclusions can be drawn about the relationship of income to VS. However we expect to find that parental and family income levels may be more predictive of VS behavior than present income. That is, we believe that a VS lifestyle is likely to be chosen by individuals who come from relatively affluent families. Present income may depend upon the degree to which the individuals find high income compatible with other life goals. The more strongly the person advocates VS, the more likely that he/she will endeavor to keep income at a modest level.

In our five studies, we found that, as might be expected, VS adherents are ecological activists. They tend to contribute to ecology organizations financially and through active membership. Also consistent in all our studies is the finding that these VS adherents believe there is an energy shortage in the world. In the Palo Alto Study, we found that people high in VS are conscious of social pressure in their neighborhoods to conserve, and they feel a strong personal obligation to cut back on energy consumption. In all five studies, those people high on VS modified their family routine to conserve energy by turning down thermostats in winter and turning off furnace pilot lights in the summer, etc.

Perhaps the most striking characteristic of people high on VS is that they are very capable "do-it-yourselfers." They rate highly on several different scales of mechanical ability (in all five studies). They tend to make electrical, plumbing, and carpentry repairs in their house themselves.

Although we can broadly characterize adherents of VS by age, income, education, general ecological awareness and mechanical ability, we do not suggest that there is a single, consistent VS personality or background. In fact, we distinguish at least three types of VS adherents, which for convenience, we call "Conservers," "Crusaders," and "Conformists." Conservers are people who have been brought up in a home with a very strong prohibition against waste of all kinds. Often someone in the household has lived in a developing country, or their family has experienced poverty. Conservation is a way of life, both because frugality is habitual and because it is economic.

Crusaders may have come from a family with a strong conserving ethic, but the motivation to engage in VS behaviors is born of a strong sense of social responsibility, more than out of a desire to save financially. Crusaders regard themselves as role models and feel that as a nation we need to be educated about the world's dwindling resources. A good example of Crusaders is a family we interviewed who are so well known in their neighborhood for their conservation ethic that there was virtual unanimity in selecting them as the best source of information about energy and water conservation and as the best conservers in the neighborhood (Leonard-Barton and Rogers, 1979). They have a very strong work ethic, with clearly-defined traditional roles for men and women. The wife bakes, cans, and grows a vegetable garden in their front yard. The husband is a skilled engineer at work and a cabinet-maker at home. They have organized neighborhood workshops on such topics as family goal-setting and weather stripping; they belong to a four-family meal cooperative, in which each mother provides the evening meal for four families once a week.

Conformists are people who engage in VS behaviors for less well-defined reasons. They are less likely to buy second-hand clothes or goods, but they dutifully recycle resources, cut down on meat consumption, etc. Some are apparently motivated by guilt at being so wealthy; others have been influenced by VS adherents in their neighborhood. One such family we interviewed, moved from an extremely ecology-conscious and very cohesive neighborhood to amore geographically scattered and an ecologically inactive neighborhood, and discontinued many of the VS practices they had adopted before moving.

There are undoubtedly more than these three types of VS individuals which will be identified as our research proceeds.

PURCHASING PATTERNS

The VS index discriminates among consumer segments. The clearest example is found in the Solar Diffusion Study. As Table 5 shows, adopters of solar equipment in general rank lower on the VS Index than do nonadopters. However, when the adopter sample is split between (1) purchasers of swimming pool heating equipment and (2) purchasers of hot water and space heating systems, a difference in levels of VS behavior appears. Hot water and space systems are less economic than pool heaters, requiring both higher initial investment and a longer payback period. Therefore people who buy solar water and space heating systems are less likely to do so with an expectation of quick payback than are pool owners. The data from our study support the hypothesis that adopters of space and water heating systems purchase solar equipment for non-economic reasons. Swimming pool owners buy solar equipment for reasons unrelated to VS philosophy; the purchase of solar swimming pool equipment does not fit in with VS behaviors, with the use of bicycles for transportation, or the recycling of goods and resources, etc. However, the purchase of solar water or space heating systems does fit in with the pattern of VS consumption, with "scaling down" and using less energy. This differentiation in the solar market has not previously been recognized. Researchers, government planners, and marketers tend to think of the solar market as a whole, whereas it is clear that purchasers of different types of solar systems differ considerably in their behavior patterns.

TABLE 5

VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY SCORES FOR ADOPTERS AND NONADOPTERS IN THE SOLAR DIFFUSION STUDY

[These means represent the average for each population scored on the expanded, 10-item Voluntary Simplicity Index. For the sake of clarity, the scores reported here are simile cumulative scores, which correlated .98 with the less easily interpreted standardized factor scores.]

[This information on pool ownership was not available for the entire nonadopter sample.]

In the Palo Alto Study, respondents high on VS were not only more likely to be considering installation of solar water heating systems, but were more likely to have insulated the walls of their homes, to have installed furnace timers, and to have weather stripped their homes. This finding undoubtedly reflects both the VS adherents' interest in conserving and their ability to do the work themselves.

DISCUSSION

The adherents of VS are now and perhaps will always be a subpopulation. The questions of first, how many VS behaviors are diffusing through society and second, whether the spread of such behaviors is accompanied by changing values are empirical questions. The question for history is whether or not a subpopulation sympathetic to VS will have a real political and social impact.

We have in our present research explored only a few behavior clusters. There are undoubtedly others. Some of the patterns we have looked at have not been adequately examined; [Obviously, the dimensions which emerge in study depend upon the questions asked of the respondents.] for instance the health dimension is probably an important one. Some extreme VS adherents living in rural communities have established self-help medical facilities; the desire to control one's own medical treatment may underlie numerous other health-related behaviors.

We have not yet constructed independent measures of the values which underlie the behaviors we are studying, except for those directly related to energy conservation. We cannot, therefore, draw sure conclusions about the motives which lead to VS behaviors. Certainly different values will give rise to differing emphasis on the VS behavior clusters identified so far and probably to interest in behavior patterns not yet studied.

POTENTIAL USES FOR AND IMPLICATIONS OF THIS RESEARCH

There are three trends or movements in the U.S. which bear a definite if yet undefined relationship to VS: Counterstream Migration, Decentralization, Appropriate Technology. As yet, all we can say of the relevance of VS to these movements is that there are patterns of behavior (and, among the extreme VS advocates, of rhetoric) which overlap among the four. Counter-stream migration seems to be motivated in part by a desire for less institutionalized interdependency, more autonomy and a simpler, more "basic" lifestyle. It may be possible to track and predict trends in counter-stream migration by studying the diffusion of VS.

The same people who advocate decentralization of government, of energy supplies, and of human services, tend to fit a VS mold. The growth of political support for decentralization may parallel a growth in VS.

Finally, increasing numbers of people around the world are questioning the viability of high technology and of setting in motion technical processes which we do not control and for which we cannot foresee all results. Thus, adherents of Appropriate Technology are cousins in spirit to VS advocates.

Future Research

The present research barely nudges the door open on the subject of VS. Our data are limited to one stratum of society; we are keenly aware that there are large segments of the population who may be seen as living a life of involuntary simplicity. The study of the behaviors and values associated with VS must therefore be carried to other income and education levels.

Another major area of interest will be the nature of the diffusion. Are there certain "threshold" behaviors or certain acts which give impetus to further VS behavior? For instance, will people who become accustomed to recycling glass and paper eventually seek self-sufficiency?

The spread of VS behaviors stimulates an enormous need to learn. A new class of publications has sprung up to serve that need (e.g., Rain, Co-Evolution Quarterly) and is of itself deserving of study.

We are aware that the spread of VS might or might not occasion less consumption. It would of a certainty cause different patterns of consumption, e.g., a preference for durables, natural materials, do-it-yourself kits, and basic styling in furniture and clothing. The specific social and business implications of such a shift should be studied.

The paramount question to be answered before one can consider the potential implications of VS is: Is VS a real social movement?

REFERENCES

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Campbell, Angus, Philip E. Converse and Willard Rodgers (1975), The Quality of American Life, Ann Arbor Michigan: Institute for Social Research.

Elgin, Duane and Arnold Mitchell(1977), "Voluntary Simplicity,'' The Co-Evolution Quarterly, Summer, 5-18.

Elgin, Duane (1976), "Voluntary Simplicity," SRI International Business Intelligence Program, Guidelines No. 1004.

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Haley, Jay (1969), "The Amiable Hippie," in The Power Tactics of Jesus Christ, New York: Avon Books.

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Phillips, Michael (1977), "SRI is Wrong about Voluntary Simplicity," The Co-Evolution Quarterly, Summer, 32-34.

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