Minimalism and Its Influence on the Human Condition

Lifestyle is a person’s attitudes, interests, orientations, and behavioral patterns. The word was first introduced by Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler in his 1930 book, The Case of Miss R. It has come to refer to the general aspects of people’s lived experience, including their beliefs, behaviors, and overall lifestyle. The concept is sometimes used in much less definitive ways, for example, by sociologists to describe the way in which people interpret and respond to situations.


In his concept of lifestyle, Adler distinguished three distinct aspects of human life style: autonomous, communal, and collective. According to him, each of these three aspects described aspects of an individual’s psychology and were the basis of his particular personality type. His idea was that people could be accurately classified into one of these three groups based on their level of independence, their behavior patterns, and their level of collectiveness or groupness. This way, he explained how people formed their individual psychology and where they fitted into the world.

As his theory began to gain currency, other sociologists and psychologists used it to describe aspects of everyday life. In his famous book, The Frankfurt School, Theodor Adorno argued that there are four major aspects of lifestyle. These are authoritarian life styles, which are characterized by an emphasis on the leadership and control of the individuals within a community; conservative life styles, which are characterized by a social order that upholds social hierarchy and a high value system; liberal life styles, which are characterized by a disregard for authority and a high respect for individual freedom; and individualistic life styles, which are individualistic in their orientation and values. The fourth, cultural aspect, was ignored by Adolph as an exception rather than a common feature of everyday life. However, his arguments received strong resistance from other social scientists and he later developed the concept of structuralism, which focused on the structure of society as a whole rather than on the individual. This perspective makes more sense of why people tend to behave in certain ways and why they choose certain types of social organizations.

Structuralism became popular in the nineteen sixties and seventies as a result of developments in psychology and sociology. By the end of the decade, it had become almost a de facto scientific discipline, and its proponents included such notables as linguists John Diamond and Barry Lopez and anthropologists Kevin Price and Edward Said. Structured grammar emerged as a way to organize the many different approaches to grammar. It gave a vocabulary to distinguish different approaches and to make them interchangeable, which made it possible to speak of style as well as language in the same sentence.

Max Weber’s notion of “Lifestyle” also lent itself to an understanding of contemporary culture. Weber argued that there are two main ways to understand the meaning of life. The first, he said, was through the experience of the spirit in the contemporary world. Weber called this the “people’s mindset.” According to Weber, people choose their own lifestyles according to their interpretation of what is right or wrong. According to Weber, people living in rural communities in the United States and Western Europe tend to value efficiency over socialization and cultural knowledge.

The other, called the “apistric mindset,” places more emphasis on the internal factors, especially on what things like the need for security, affiliation, esteem, competence, and other such aspects make up a person’s experience of the world. People who subscribe to this school of thought live their lives as though they were at the theater, worrying only about things like safety and security. They think very little about the world as a whole, Weber argues, except about what they can get out of it. In short, the minimalist lifestyle might be called a personal limit to the extent that it resists the participation in larger trends. The kind of lifestyle described by the minimalist thinker, then, may also be called a kind of intellectual terrorism.

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