The High Price of Materialism

I was just made aware of a video on materialism created by The Center for a New American Dream, back in 2011. Psychologist Tim Kasser does a good job of laying out, in  5:37 minutes of animation, the negative impact of consumerism on well-being. He correctly notes that when people confuse the “good life” for the “goods life” they not only use up limited resources, they are less happy and less inclined to help others.

The video notes that confronting, let alone overturning, materialism requires not only personal lifestyle choices but broad social change as well. I have no quarrel with this, but feel compelled to point out the enormity of the task confronting those, myself included, who would relish a non-consumerist, sustainable and humane, society. Materialism is axiomatic to capitalism, central to its profit-driven need to grow. Dislodging this motive requires changing, or eliminating, powerful capitalist institutions.

And, while I’m still holding out for the possibility of a massive political upheaval, a more likely scenario is that serious change will not be contemplated, let alone institutionalized, until the life-threatening impact of ecological destruction can no longer be denied.

You can see the video here.

About Mayo Toruño

Professor of Economics, California State University San Bernardino
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