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Time for new affluence, says author Schor

Americans have a deep history of community-grounded economies.

In author Juliet Schor’s vision of a new economy, wealth is measured in abundance of time, the breadth of social connections and the durability of the things we own. She calls it Plenitude, the title of her two-year-old book on “true wealth” .

“It’s a solution to the current economic and ecological crises we’re in,” Schor says. “It’s a way to invest more in natural wealth and in the ties between us and ultimately improve our quality of life.”

Schor, a sociology professor at Boston College, is in Portland tonight for an Illahee Lecture on working.

Juiet Schor speaks tonight at 7pm at Portland's First Congregational Church
Juiet Schor speaks tonight at 7pm at Portland’s First Congregational Church

She imagines us clocking in for less hours in the future, climbing off the overworked, overspent treadmill Americans have hamstered on over the last generation. Instead, we’ll make more of what we need ourselves, offer services in barter with neighbors and share big-ticket goods like cars and washing machines.

That vision of the future is taking shape in things like Getaround, the crowd-sourced car sharing company and the similar vacation rental service, airbnb.

“These are wonderful new ways to give people access to goods and services that are low cost — a way to allow people to work less and be freed up to have more abundance of time,” Schor says.

But how sticky are these new models and practices in country where consumption and individual affluence have come to define the culture? Schor argues that Americans actually have a deep history of community-grounded economies and informal labor and goods exchange, from the earliest days of barn-raising colonial New England village life to the sharing of goods and services that defines immigrant life in the cities of today.

“Americans are yearning for more community and that’s why they’re flocking to new sharing ventures and social networks,” Schor says. “These aren’t just things that I like and write about. These are real social trends.”