Opinion | Economics of Use: A Model That Overturns Capitalism?

Posted on February 17th, 2022 17:16Updated February 17th. 2022 17:39

At the heart of the capitalist economy, which still emphasizes the principle of goods, asking about the use of goods is no longer a niche debate. Many companies are already rolling out this model, especially within the automotive sector, but leasing has a bright future. In fact, according to a C-Ways survey, leasing funding accounted for nearly 47% of funding for new car purchases in 2021, compared to 21% in 2015.

However, this success is not new. The economy used is not the result of unicorn brilliant concepts or disruptive start-ups, but rather a change in the economic model run by large market leaders like Xerox. These same players decide to sell their applications, not their products, in order to provide as many people as possible with more sophisticated and therefore more expensive products than ever before. A major change that is gradually establishing its position in the B2C market so far, when applied primarily to B2B. Currently, the trend is largely supported by the explosive growth of digital and the proliferation of services and subscriptions. This is beginning, according to a Zuora study conducted by Harris Poll, when usage is increasing and nearly 80% of subscription economy companies continue to grow during the health crisis.

Beyond capitalist logic

Behind the flattering numbers is the real question of the capitalist model and the predominance of the notion of property. If buying a nice car was an indicator of success in the consumer society a few years ago, today’s behavior has changed a bit. Between the decline in purchasing power caused by repeated crises and the emergence of a form of responsible consumption, the priority is no longer possession of goods, especially if it is very expensive. As is clear from the car market case, manufacturers want to offer more advanced vehicles from a technical point of view, and therefore more expensive, and ultimately this new one. It produces the consumption of form by itself.

Nevertheless, the economy of use shows a disturbing paradox. At the heart of our capitalist society, more and more individuals are losing more and more capital. Therefore, it is difficult to find interest in debt or bankruptcy if you can choose a more flexible and hassle-free payment solution. Companies understand this, and selling value in use allows them to more specifically personalize the offers offered, thus alleviating the precarious nature of consumers.

Reliable ecological ambition?

Enforcing such consumption patterns, even if they are priorities, does more than just serve economic purposes. Focusing on use rather than ownership is, by extension, part of a surprisingly ecological approach. In order for a product to be used by multiple individuals over a more or less long period of time, it must inevitably be of high quality and therefore durable. Therefore, in theory, it is logical to propose to take environmental issues into account by gradually reducing the phenomenon of planned obsolescence that is still widespread in the production process.

However, if it is good to promote the use of the product, the application of this model remains incomplete at many levels, especially at the ecological level. Many companies are not necessarily thinking of taking this model further and switching to a circular economy by tackling the usage economy. It is still a struggle to impose itself, as it is the actual system of the future and the influence of the classic model of the linear economy remains strong on the enterprise. In many respects, usage brings hope for a positive and lasting evolution of the economic foundation in which our society is advancing. If this remains insufficient to radically change the paradigm in the short or medium term, it is worth paying homage to the many efforts of companies that act daily in this direction.