cover image Graceful Simplicity: Toward a Philosophy and Politics of Simple Living

Graceful Simplicity: Toward a Philosophy and Politics of Simple Living

Jerome M. Segal. Henry Holt & Company, $26 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-5679-2

Segal's thought-provoking and energizing manifesto is partly a call to live a balanced life unyoked from the never-ending pursuit of money, partly a homily against material greed and partly a utopian economic blueprint for reordering society. ""Graceful simplicity,"" in his definition, not only means scaling back consumption and working less but also implies the cultivation of meaningful activity, aesthetic appreciation, bonds of family and friendship. Rather than continually berating Americans for overconsumption, Segal, a social philosopher and former staff member of the House Budget Committee, trots out facts and figures to prove that the cost of meeting basic economic needs--food, housing, transportation, health care, education--has risen dramatically in recent years. So, to make the good life a workable proposition, he advocates a ""politics of simple living,"" an agenda with scattershot suggestions like the following: replace paid higher education with free colleges and universities (an objective readily within the nation's budget, he insists); phase in extra holidays so that workers get a three-day weekend every other week; create a federal ""simple living tax credit"" for people who cut back on expenses and couples who move away from the two full-time wage-earner model; revive public transportation and build cars to last indefinitely. Sprinkled with the wisdom of Aristotle, Benjamin Franklin, Thoreau, Quaker theorists and Enlightenment thinkers, Segal's assault on the assumption that ""more is better"" will hearten readers tempted to ""downshift"" out of the rat race. Agent, Bedford Book Works. (Feb.)