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Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich (Revised edition) Paperback – October 21, 1998

44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin, first published in 1981 and revised in 1993, is the sacred text for those wanting to liberate themselves from enslavement to a job and the pursuit of status symbols. Elgin's work emerges from a concern for the environmental consequences of our mass consumption lifestyles. His book exhorts us to save the planet and our souls by "living with balance in order to find a life of greater purpose."


"Promise Aheadis a corrective to the negative messages about the state of our world that are prevalent today. Elgin provides a compelling blueprint for the future that is both hopeful and doable. This book deserves the attention of our entire society." -- Larry Dossey, M.D., author of "Reinventing Medicine" and "Healing Words"

"Promise Aheadis a powerful message for our time, a seminal contribution to the new story, and essential reading for those dedicated to creating a world that works for all." -- David C. Korten, author of "The Post-corporate World" and "When Corporations Rule the World"

"Promise Aheadis essential reading for people flooded with information yet filled with confusion. Never before have humans had to function responsibly and gracefully as citizens of the whole earth. Thankfully, Duane Elgin has the courage and the credentials to provide us with a visionary andplausible road map into the deep future." -- Vicki Robin, coauthor with Joe Dominguez of "Your Money or Your Life"

"Promise Aheadoffers us a new framework for our conscious evolution. A gem to inaugurate the twenty-first century." -- Barbara Hubbard, author of "Conscious Evolution" and "The Evolutionary Journey"

"A copy of this book in every American household could change the course of history..." -- George Leonard, author of "The Transformation"

"A passionate and wide-ranging book that demonstrates the elegance of simplicity ..." -- Sam Keen, author of "Fire in the Belly"

"Duane Elgin already lives the future he writes about. Elgin writes with personality, passion, and persistence. The result is a well-reasoned and plausible promise that includes some mighty big challenges. Duane Elgin is calling us on a hero's journey where we can all be heroes." -- Robert Johansen, president, Institute for the Future

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Quill (William Morrow); Revised edition (October 21, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688121195
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688121198
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #436,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Duane Elgin is an internationally recognized speaker and author. His books include The Living Universe, Promise Ahead, and Awakening Earth. In 2006, he received the international Goi Peace Award in recognition of his contribution to a global "vision, consciousness, and lifestyle" that fosters a "more sustainable and spiritual culture." He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

141 of 143 people found the following review helpful By Nana Annie on August 14, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book, a gift from a friend, was a simple read - I am surprised by some of the reviews that confuse the thoughts in here with Marxism, since I didn't find much of that. In fact, Elgin's book is filled with quotes from world religions, citing the reasons we truly need to live a simpler life. I sat reading this book, surrounded with my stacks of books and clothing - "things" I do not need but want - and can afford to get. Halfway through reading, I felt supported in my firm desire (and so far feeble efforts) to continue unloading my home of excesses while downsizing my "wants."
Elgin offers this support in a gentle and convincing way - he offers no directions, for he says "Because simplicity has as much to do with each person's purpose in living as it does with his or her standard of living, it follows that there is no single, "right and true" way to live more ecologically and compassionately."
His goal is to move his readers to live more simply because it makes more sense, not because we are told we 'should' do so, or because it is a trend. He hopes to move us from within.
He offers compassionate, thoughtful reasons to live with less "things." He also gives a history of simplicity's roots - using thoughts from a diversity of views: Christian, Eastern, early Greek, Puritan, Transcendental, and (one of my favorites, of course!) Quakers. He recalls an experience he had with Elise Boulding, a well known Quaker, which helped move him more toward voluntary simplicity (worth reading the book just to experience this with him.)
It makes more sense, according to Elgin, for the good of the planet, of other human beings, of our children's future, of our own quality of life, now.
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69 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Robert H. Nunnally Jr. on December 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is one of the landmark works of the simplicity movement. In contrast to the Dominguez' Your Money or Your Life, Mr. Elgin places his focus on describing the reasons for his advocacy for a voluntary alteration to a less consumptive lifestyle. The book's style is easy and accessible. The author uses a number of quotations and very brief anecdotes from survey respondents to make the argument that people should scale back into less material obsession and consumption as a way of attaining a more "conscious" life.
The reader is left convinced of the author's sincerity, and of the virtue of stepping away from rampant materialism, but the casual assumptions embedded in the book (the inherent error in modern corporate life, the somewhat leery viewpoint toward some forms of technology) seem a bit unexamined for a work considering the social implications of a more examined life.
Still, although I was not swept away with all the ideas herein, this is a well-written book with some real ideas, and deserves the cult status popularity it has achieved.
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85 of 96 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
Elgin has been hailed, by some, as a guru of the simplicity movement, yet I was disappointed with the content of this book. He attempted to give a philosophical framework for the movement and did a good job exploring the possibilities of this type of lifestyle.
Yet, I found his philosophical examination of "religions" and the human condition to be lacking. He did a poor job of relaying the true messages of different spiritual pathways, and instead twisted them to match the simplicity movement. Furthermore, his attempts at showing what the simplicity movement will result in are at times accurate, yet often they are mere speculation. Elgin assumes that simplicity provides that satisfaction that the soul longs for, which simply isn't true. Simplicity can relieve stress, help our ecology, and help us live a more conscious and fruitful life. But ultimately, the soul longs for more than simplicity, decluttering, developing community and having more time.
I think this book would have hit the mark if the author would have spent less time trying to oversimply the spiritual pathways of the world, and instead given us more practical examples of the voluntary simplicity movement. More "how-to's" and less philosophy.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on June 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
If the singular word "visionary" is one that can be used to describe such a popular and overwhelming bestseller as this book has become, then that is best word I can conjure up out of my subconscious to describe it in a word. In a time when the material excesses of our civilization are spinning out of control, Duane Elgin writes with passion and clarity about the costs of such materialistic strivings. He believes that to work for a sustainable future is not just a pipedream, but an achievable goal reached through a reorientation and enlightenment on the part of the postindustrial world that mere material goods cannot ever truly make us happy.
In fact, he argues, it is our love affair with acquiring more and more `things' that enslaves us and makes us quite the opposite. Thus, he writes with apassionate and informed concern for the disastrous consequences of our endless addiction to acquisition and ownership of more and more material goods. Yet such acquisition is a dead end street from which little can be gained. The author hopes to enlighten the reader into recognizing that it is in his or her interest to become less acquisitive, to simplify his or her own life and regain the balance that is missing from his or her own life.
He argues persuasively on behalf of living of life with greater balance and freedom, one in which the individual is more a person who is much than one who has much. For him voluntary simplicity supposes both an inner and outer condition requiring a singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, a purposeful avoidance of exterior clutter. He recognizes that having many possessions is not only irrelevant to what most of us want from life, it is quite often the chief obstacle standing in the individual's way.
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