The Minimalist Philosophy of Fight Club

Source: Wikipedia Commons

When people think of the movie Fight Club, they think of it as a movie about fighting and manliness. That’s only partially true.

The primary focus of the movie is the war between the philosophy of minimalist living and consumerism/materialism.

(I should add before I forget that the anarchist in the author, Chuck Palahniuk, rears it’s ugly head more than once in this film 😉

Tyler Durden, the brainchild of Chuck Palahniuk, is first and foremost a minimalist. 

The Fight Club Philosophy

This quote sums up the counter-culture mindset of the movie, which leads into a world of minimalist living at it’s most primal extreme:

“If you are reading this then this warning is for you. Every word you read of this useless fine print is another second off your life. Don’t you have other things to do? Is your life so empty that you honestly can’t think of a better way to spend these moments? Or are you so impressed with authority that you give respect and credence to all that claim it? Do you read everything you’re supposed to read? Do you think every thing you’re supposed to think? Buy what you’re told to want? Get out of your apartment. Meet a member of the opposite sex. Stop the excessive shopping and masturbation. Quit your job. Start a fight. Prove you’re alive. If you don’t claim your humanity you will become a statistic. You have been warned.”

This is the mindset that Palahniuk pushes to help his audience (as Durden helps Edward Norton’s unnamed character) get acclimated to the concept of minimalist living.

Fight Club and Minimalist Living: The War Against Materialism

One of the main purposes of minimalism is to diminish the effect of materialism. That is, the unhealthy preoccupation with material possessions and “things”. Palahniuk wages a war against materialism in Fight Club, while simultaneously exploring the extreme side of the minimalist lifestyle.

“The things you own end up owning you.”

“Reject the basic assumptions of civilization, especially the importance of material possessions.”

“What do you want? Wanna go back to the shit job, fucking condo world, watching sitcoms? Fuck you, I won’t do it.”

“How embarrassing…a house full of condiments and no food.”

“Do you know what a duvet is?…It’s a blanket. Just a blanket. Now why do guys like you and me know what a duvet is? Is this essential to our survival, in the hunter-gatherer sense of the word? No. What are we then?…We are consumers. We’re the byproducts of a lifestyle obsession.”

Tyler Durden and Consumerism

Here’s a brief refresher of the definition of Consumerism (From the post “How Consumerism Shapes Our Lifestyles”:

The Philosophical Definition: “The preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods.”

Tyler Durden (without spoiling the movie for people who haven’t seen the movie) is the epitome of counter-culture, anti-consumerism individuality (although the movie explores many juxtapositions within the context of his philosophy).

One reason I like the movie is because of his non-compromising approach to life: 

“We’re consumers. We are the byproducts of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don’t concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy’s name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra…Fuck Martha Stewart. Martha’s polishing the brass on the Titanic. It’s all going down, man. So fuck off with your sofa units and strine green stripe patterns.”

“We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

(As they look at a clothing advertisement of a model in underwear) “Is that what a real man is supposed to look like?”

“We are all part of the same compost heap.”

Tyler’s “No Pain No Gain” Tactics

When I first started pursuing minimalist living, I began to understand that sacrifices and endurance are a fundamental part of the minimalist lifestyle.

This is how it is with anything worth pursuing – there’s no such thing as success without sacrifice.

“Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing. Like the first monkey shot into space.”

“Hitting bottom isn’t a weekend retreat. It’s not a goddamn seminar. Stop trying to control everything and just let go! LET GO!”

“Only after disaster can we be resurrected.”

(Teaching Norton to learn to accept and embrace pain) “This is your pain. This is your burning hand. It’s right here. Look at it.”

“I got in everyone’s hostile little face. Yes, these are bruises from fighting. Yes, I’m comfortable with that. I am enlightened.”

“Fuck what you know. You need to forget about what you know, that’s your problem. Forget about what you think you know about life, about friendship, and especially about you and me.”

My Final Observations on Fight Club and Minimalist Philosophy

It seems like Fight Club is one of those things that you either love or hate. Most extreme things are like that. I think the value of the book and movie is the shock value – not your typical run of the mill, Terantino shock value; blood, violence, and shock for the mere sensation. 

Palahniuk uses the most drastic examples on both sides of the issue of consumerism/materialism vs minimalism for a reason, and that is to corner his audience into thinking about issues that no one wants to think about.

We don’t want to see ourselves as materialistic, and we certainly don’t want to be labeled as a brainwashed slave to consumerism.

But after you watch Fight Club or read the book, you’re almost forced to evaluate your life, and come to terms with your philosophy on minimalism, consumerism, materialism, anarchism, and whatever other “ism’s” are hidden under the bloodbath and chaos.

And that’s the beauty of the minimalist, anti-consumerist, counter-culture, anarchist philosophy of Fight Club.

If you want a more in-depth, objective study of consumerism, Read “How Consumerism Shapes Our Lifestyles”.

Thanks for reading!