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About this book

This book fosters a wide-ranging and nuanced discussion of the concept of ‘enough’. Acknowledging the prominence of notions of sufficiency in debates about sustainability, it argues for a more complex, culturally and historically informed understanding of how these might be manifested across a wide array of contexts. Rather than simply adding further case studies of sufficiency in order to prove the efficacy of what might be called ‘finite planet economics’, the book holds up to the light a crucial ‘keyword’ within the sustainability discourse, tracing its origins and anatomising its current repertoire of usages. Chapters focus on the sufficiency of food, drink and clothing to track the concept of 'enough' from the Middle Ages to the 21st century.
By expanding the historical and cultural scope of sufficiency, this book fills a significant gap in the current market for authors, students and the wider informed audience who want to more deeply understand the changing and developing use of this term.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Thinking Enough

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Just Enough: An Introduction

The concept of ‘enough’ is highly polysemous and in its diverse invocations is always already value-laden and political. The introduction traces current articulations of ‘enough’ and argues that these need to be placed within a historical and comparative context that highlights the often hidden multiplicity of its cultural and political resonance. ‘Enough’ is often malleable and changing in relation to new desires, technologies or values. Drawing on the chapters in this volume, the concept of ‘enough’ is suggested to be more complex than quantitative measures can resolve. These various case studies also prompt critical thought about the politics of sufficiency more broadly and which pose important questions for sustainability proponents.
Matthew Ingleby, Samuel Randalls

Chapter 2. Enough: A Lexical-Semantic Approach

‘Enough’ is a fundamental concept that is as central to the lives of individuals as it is to political policies and debates about sustainability. Yet how much might be considered enough is highly subjective and rarely easy to determine. Uses of the word enough show it to be both polysemous and vague, with shifting, conflicting meanings that are modulated by context and collocation. While its core sense might be ‘as much or many as required’, it is often used negatively to imply ‘too much’ or ‘too little’. Following in the tradition of Raymond Williams’s Keywords, this short paper uses corpus data alongside other evidence to interrogate the grammatical, semantic and pragmatic complexities of enough, and explores its relationship with partial synonyms like sufficient and adequate.
Kathryn Allan

Historicizing Sufficiency in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Frontmatter

Chapter 3. Enough-ness in the Later Middle Ages

The concept of sufficiency—what it meant to have enough—was fundamentally a religious category in early modern England, debated through a series of scriptural passages, notably the petition in the Lord’s Prayer for daily bread. In the era of the Reformation, Protestant writers interpreted these passages to require the equitable redistribution of wealth so that everyone might have enough. In the increasingly capitalist context of Elizabethan and Stuart England, however, these passages were reinterpreted to authorize private wealth, culminating in the work of John Locke, for whom the accumulation of riches represented sufficiency rather than excess because money, unlike bread, does not spoil. This article thus traces the process by which the Christian ethics of sufficiency ceased to provide a theoretical constraint upon capitalism.
Hannah Skoda

Chapter 4. Daily Bread: Ideas of Sufficiency in Early Modern England

The concept of sufficiency—what it meant to have enough—was fundamentally a religious category in early modern England, debated through a series of scriptural passages, notably the petition in the Lord’s Prayer for daily bread. In the era of the Reformation, Protestant writers interpreted these passages to require the equitable redistribution of wealth so that everyone might have enough. In the increasingly capitalist context of Elizabethan and Stuart England, however, these passages were reinterpreted to authorise private wealth, culminating in the work of John Locke, for whom the accumulation of riches represented sufficiency rather than excess because money, unlike bread, does not spoil. This article thus traces the process by which the Christian ethics of sufficiency ceased to provide a theoretical constraint upon capitalism.
Ethan H. Shagan

Limit Cases in Nineteenth-Century Modernity

Frontmatter

Chapter 5. Sufficiency and Simplicity in the Life and Writings of Edward Carpenter

Edward Carpenter, the sandal-wearing prophet of socialist self-sufficiency in the late nineteenth century, advocated the values of simplicity and self-sufficiency that was a source of inspiration to other late-Victorian radicals. On closer examination, however, Carpenter’s philosophy of daily life was one where self-sufficiency was grounded in a privileging of sensory and somatic experience that placed as much value on conviviality, creative self-expression and sexual liberation as on producing one’s own food, recycling and minimising unnecessary labour. As such, Carpenter offered a radical re-framing of sufficiency as an enriched mode of living and described how the ‘simplification of life’ opened up a world in which affective bonds between humans, animals, objects and the environment were given a new intensity and pleasure.
Wendy Parkins

Chapter 6. ‘These Are the Cases Who Call Themselves “Moderate Drinkers,” Because They Are Never Seen Embracing a Lamp-Post’: The Problem of Moderate Drinking in Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Britain

Kneale describes the problem of defining and measuring moderate drinking in Britain between 1800 and 1939, drawing on material from arguments made within temperance, medical and (more unusually) life assurance circles. Debating abstinence, moderation and excessive drinking, these authorities engaged with writers and scientists in North America and Europe to establish just how much drink was enough. In doing so, they were also struggling to determine just who should be able to make these decisions: doctors, statisticians or drinkers themselves. Opinions about moderate drinking are still divided in Britain, along similar lines to those taken before 1939, and Kneale’s history helps to historicise contemporary arguments about how much drink is enough and how much is too much.
James Kneale

Enough for the Present

Frontmatter

Chapter 7. ‘Fashion Acolytes or Environmental Saviours? When Will Young People Have Had “Enough”?’

In the global north, high rates of material consumption show few signs of abating, despite oft-repeated warnings of dire social and environmental consequences. Environmental educators have identified young people as a potentially effective group of change agents, capable of driving a transformative shift in how we consume. Yet this picture of the young environmental ‘saviour’ is at odds with many Western young people’s thirst for the ‘latest’ fashions and trends. This chapter explores how young people themselves make sense of this apparent contradiction. Exploring under-researched questions around young people’s conceptualisations of, and affective and embodied responses to, the notion of ‘enough’, it highlights the cultural and contextual factors which could prove decisive in positioning the notion of ‘enough’ centrally in a sustainability-compatible youth material culture.
Rebecca Collins

Chapter 8. What Would a Sufficiency Economy Look like?

After briefly summarising the ‘limits to growth’ position, this chapter highlights the radical implications of that critique by describing a ‘sufficiency economy’. This alternative ‘post-growth’ economic model aims for a world in which everyone’s basic material needs are modestly but sufficiently met, in an ecologically sustainable, highly localised and socially equitable manner. Once basic needs are met, a sufficiency economy would focus on promoting non-materialistic sources of well-being rather than endlessly pursuing material affluence. In other words, a sufficiency economy is an economy that is structured to promote and support what is often called ‘simple living’, ‘voluntary simplicity’ or ‘the simpler way’. In a world of seven billion people and counting, it is argued that a sufficiency economy is the only way humanity can flourish sustainably within the carrying capacity of Earth.
Samuel Alexander

Backmatter

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