Toward a Way of Life that is
Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich


“First published in 1981, Voluntary Simplicity was quickly recognized as a powerful and visionary work in the emerging dialogue over sustainable living. Now—more than twenty years later and with many of the planet′s environmental stresses more urgent than ever—Duane Elgin has once again revised and updated his revolutionary book.

“Voluntary Simplicity is not a book about living in poverty; it is a book about living with balance. Elgin illuminates the changes that an increasing number of Americans are making in their everyday lives-adjustments in day-to-day living that are an active, positive response to the complex dilemmas of our time. By embracing the tenets of voluntary simplicity—frugal consumption, ecological awareness, and personal growth—people can change their lives and, in the process, save our planet.”

Coverr Voluntary Simplicity
Duane Elgin

Table of Contents:

Introduction by Ram Dass

Section I: People

Chapter 1: Voluntary Simplicity

Chapter 2: Living on the New Frontier

  • What is Voluntary Simplicity?
  • Why Choose Voluntary Simplicity?
  • The Path to Voluntary Simplicity
  • Inner Growth and Voluntary Simplicity
  • The Importance of Relationships
  • Community Support
  • The Politics of Voluntary Simplicity
  • Contributions of Feminism
  • Voluntary Simplicity and Contributory Livelihood
  • Satisfactions and Dissatisfactions

Section II: Context

Chapter 3: Civilization in Transition

  • Four Stages of Civilizational Growth
  • Where Are We Now?
  • The Rate of Descent into Civilizational Breakdown
  • The Stage IV Challenge
  • Two Outcomes from a Period of Civilizational Breakdown
  • Civilizational Transition from a Planetary Perspective

Chapter 4: The Relevance and Growth of Voluntary Simplicity

  • The Relevance of Voluntary Simplicity
  • The Growth Potential of Voluntary Simplicty

Section III: Roots

Chapter 5: Appreciating Life

  • The Universe as Our Home
  • Death as Our Ally

Chapter 6: Living More Voluntarily

  • Running on Automatic
  • Living More Consciously
  • Embedded and Self-reflective Consciousness
  • Beyond Self-reflective Consciousness
  • Enabling Qualities of Living More Consciously
  • The Nature of Human Nature

Chapter 7: Living More Simply

  • The Nature of Simplicity
  • Simplicity and Consumption
  • Simplicity and Interpersonal Communications[Simplicity and Work
  • Voluntary Simplicity: An Integrated Path for Living

Section IV: Revitalization

Chapter 8: Voluntary Simplicity and Civilizaitnal Revitalization

  • Characteristics of a Revitalizing Civilization
  • A Life-Sensing and Life-Serving Cultural Orientation
  • Transformation of the Mass Media
  • Love as a Foundation for Planetary Revitalization

Chapter 9: Choosing Our Future

Section V: Epilogue

Chapter 10: East-West Synthesis: The Source of an Emerging Common Sense

  • An Overview of East-West Integration
  • Traditional Western View of Reality
  • Traditional Eastern View of Reality
  • Reciprocal Contributions of East and West
  • East-West Integration and Voluntary Simplicity


  1. Suggested Readings
  2. Voluntary Simplicity Questionnaire
  3. An Overview of the Race with Complexity and Stages of Growth
  4. The Evolution of Consciousness and the Transformation of Political-Economy
  5. Social Organization in a Revitalizing Civilization

The questionnaire in Appendix II originally appeared with an article published in the Summer, 1977 Issue of Co-Evolution Quarterly. It may still be of interest as a self-assessment tool for gauging your own current level of simple living.