The Liquid Lives of Millennials

A need for more flexibility

Economic and environmental factors can be seen as driving forces for the shift to a circular economy but they have to be also seen as reactions to underlying social and cultural changes.

Consumption has influenced the way how we live. “Products and people travel greater distances than ever before in human history.” (Trentmann, 2016).

We live in a world, full of opportunities where ‘needs’ have shifted to ‘desires’ (Bauman, 2000). “In such a world, little is predetermined, even less irrevocable.”, argues Zygmunt Bauman (2000), sociologist and philosopher and author of the book ‘Liquid Modernity’. One of the factors which has enabled this shift, is the overcoming of scarcity and reaching a point of abundance, as discussed in previous chapters.

“The devaluation of immortality cannot but augur a cultural upheaval, arguably the most decisive turning point in human cultural history.” (Bauman, 2000)

In a world with possibilities of rapid turnovers in almost any kind of life situation, a desire for flexibility can be recognized. Bauman (2000) stated, that “The ‘short term’ has replaced the ‘long term’ and made of instantaneity its ultimate ideal.” He mentioned, that when we replace the ‘durable’ with the ‘transient’, it means that it will be “(…) used up — consumed — and (…) disappear in the process of their consumption.”

When we set this shift in context with the previous findings, it can be recognised, that the model of a linear economy struggles with this ‘short term’ mentality because of its ‘durable’ outcome.

To truly find long-term and sustainable answers for desired ‘transience’, we need to shift to an economic model which is build on cycles and loops, that allows rapid turnovers and enables needed flexibility.

Find out more:

Bauman, Z. (2000) Liquid modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Trentmann, F. (2017) Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First. 1st edn. Penguin.



Thoughts about Global Design and Future Trends

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Thomas Wagner

Research, Strategy & Design | Service Experience Designer (MA) based in Berlin | Currently Senior Service Designer @ Infarm |