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Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich Paperback – January 5, 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 2nd edition (January 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061779261
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061779268
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #185,657 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a way of life that is outwardly simple, inwardly rich, 2nd ed. Duane Elgin.

In 1981 when the first edition of this book was published the ideas were widely regarded as counter-cultural and unnecessary. The book was ahead of its time. Now three decades have passed and the world is a very different place, a place distressingly similar to the one the author warned us about. The global and ecological concerns that Elgin pointed to are now painfully obvious; the inadequacies of materialistic lifestyles focused on accumulating wealth and possessions are evident, and their ecological costs are inescapable. On the other hand, the benefits of living more simply and consciously are increasingly apparent.

Duane Elgin is one of today's most sophisticated social thinkers, and deservedly won the 2006 International Goi Peace Award for his contributions to a global "vision, consciousness, and lifestyle." Consequently, this fully revised second edition of Voluntary Simplicity is about far more than merely the necessity of changing external lifestyles. The book reaches beyond the mechanics of voluntary simplicity to examine the many psychological, spiritual, and cultural benefits of living more simply and consciously. In doing so, Elgin makes clear that voluntary simplicity is not self-sacrifice but rather enlightened self-interest, and that this emerging lifestyle choice can foster individual and collective wellbeing in multiple areas. In fact, it is amazing how many of our global problems would be ameliorated if the ideas in this vitally important book were widely adopted. Fortunately the depth and significance of the ideas are matched by the clarity of style, so that Voluntary Simplicity is an education, an inspiration, and a pleasure to read.
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Format: Paperback
I read the original edition last month. Here's what I had to say:

"It was published in 1981, written in the years just prior to that. So it's three decades old. And in many ways, it shows its age. On the other hand, much of what the author points out, much of what he proposes, still stands today.

At the time, it would have been regarded as a counter-culture polemic. Something from the tree-hugging, granola-eating, hippy-dippy bunch. Something to make the mainstream roll its eyes."

As I was curious just how Mr. Elgin would see things today, I purchased the book. And it was worth every penny.

Mr. Elgin does a solid job of updating the material; more than half of it is new. Gone is some of the fat (I still don't think the survey results warrant so much space), and what's been added is great stuff. Clearly, judicious thinking went into the editing of material.

His message hasn't changed, but obviously, its tenor has, given the situation we now find ourselves in. I won't belabour the point: this book deserves to be read and given due consideration.

If I had to sum it up in one broad notion, I would refer to my constant reference in discussions addressing just about everything in modern life from our obesity pandemic, fitness, finance, education, all the way to personal contentedness and living a purposeful life: effecting a change in societal value systems. The magnitude of this endeavour always makes my head spin, but Duane Elgin presents a convincing case for how we can all contribute to the eventual successful paradigm shift...and why it's imperative that we do.

Uncharacteristically, I'll end with an excerpt:

"We tend to think that we are powerless, helpless, impotent.
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Have you ever questioned whether we're living at a time when our consumerism has exceeded the earth's capacity to sustain us? Or have you wondered whether our industrial production has contributed to a warming earth that might activate tipping points we can't fully imagine and bring about climate change, including potential flooding, freezing, famine, and species extinction ... maybe our own?! If so, give a sigh of relief. Yes, there's something each individual, no matter how "small", can do to awaken fully to what is happening and what we can do to make a change now, right where we are, to a simpler, saner, sustainable life style, culture, and planet. With elegant competence, Duane Elgin shows us the way with this completely rewritten second edition of his classic, Voluntary Simplicity.

I felt inspired from Edgar Mitchell's uplifting introduction through the 1981 forward written by Ram Das, which explores in detail the needed integration of "West" and "East" (outer and inner), through the introduction, "How the Times Have Changed", where Elgin clarifies six dramatic changes of perspective and values, which create enormous hope for our future. In Chapter One, "Cool Lifestyle for a Hot Planet" through seven chapters concluding with "Living in a Green World", we are guided and awakened to our potential to live conscious, fulfilling lives now that will also secure our future for generations to come. Voluntary Simplicity is short (200 pages), insightful, loaded with resources and highly readable.

I particularly liked the "Pioneers of Green Living", where Elgin reports on the articulate responses gleaned from a 1970's survey of people of all ages and backgrounds who chose a simple lifestyle.
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