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Kasser and many others have studied
the effects of materialism on people's lives.
The results may startle you!
"Indeed, what stands out across the studies is
a simple fact: people who strongly
value the pursuit of wealth and possessions report lower psychological
well-being than those who are less concerned with such aims. [page 5]"
What makes some people
materialistic? The numerous studies
reveal some interesting generalizations.
1. Young adults from divorced families frequently become
materialistic. 2. If the child was
raised in a poor family, they are likely to become materialistic. 3. Children attending schools with poor
discipline and frequent fights, vandalizing by other students, and general
defiance of authority were more likely to become materialistic than children
attending well organized and highly disciplined schools. 4. Older people are more materialistic than
young people. 5. During poor economic
times, people become more materialistic.
6. People from poor nations are
more materialistic than those from rich nations. 7. People who watch a lot
of TV are more materialistic than those who don't. Many other statements such as these can be made after reviewing
the studies described in this book.
Kasser identifies several basic
physical and psychological needs that must be satisfied for every person. These include the need for air, water,
food. There is a great deal of debate
among psychologists as to whether psychological needs even exist. The author states:
On the basis of psychological research
and theorizing, I have come to conclude that at least four sets of needs are
basic to the motivation, functioning, and well-being of all humans. Described in more detail below, I call them
needs for safety, security, and sustenance; for competence, efficacy, and
self-esteem; for connectedness; and for autonomy and authenticity. [page 24]
He says a need is something a
person either desires or wants that is essential to their survival, growth and
functioning. If these psychological
needs are unsatisfied, materialism is often the result. Most of the chapters in this book show the
harm that materialism causes to individuals and corporations.
The final chapter in this book discusses ways to
change a person or society from being materialistic to being oriented towards
activities or ideas that increase psychological well-being. Kasser identifies the ways individuals,
families, and societies can break free from materialism.
First, the individual should study
the research and think about its implications for their own life. Everyone must learn to keep normal needs in
balance with psychological needs. Going
to either extreme is harmful to a person's well-being. Second, people should consider the things
they are afraid of. These fears often
lead to materialistic behavior such as compulsive buying of things that aren't
really essential for their life. Third,
people must make a conscious decision to stop the materialistic treadmill in
their own lives. Fourth, Each person
should find their true psychological needs and find ways to meet them without
buying something to satisfy loneliness, disconnectedness or other psychological
needs. Every study on this topic shows
materialism doesn't satisfy psychological needs and actually leaves the person
more dissatisfied. Fifth, develop
relationships that involve doing things together instead of spending money on
each other. Sixth, Find activities that
satisfy you without going shopping for more things.
Children copy parents'
behavior. Therefore, the first step is
for the parents to demonstrate non-materialistic behavior. Second, children must not participate in
activities, such as excessive TV watching, that are known to contribute to a
materialistic lifestyle. Third, Parents
should talk to their children about the whole issue of materialism. They should also show children how
commercials and advertisements are little more than tools to manipulate them
into wanting something they don't necessarily need. Fourth, parents can band together and agree not to purchase only
name-brand clothing or buy the latest computer games. This creates a different reference group for children to compare
their lives to. Fifth, our schools must
be changed. Take the TV out of schools
since virtually every TV program includes commercials. Don't allow corporations donate computers
and other high-tech equipment to schools in exchange for the right to track the
students' use of the internet in order to learn what things entice them.
First, create some advertising-free
zones. These might be schools, the side
of the highways, buses, subways, and other forms of transportation. Some nations have already banned TV
commercials specifically aimed at children during certain hours of the
day. Second, call advertisements a form
of pollution. The author even suggests
Television shows would be interspersed
with reminders that buying products will not really satisfy your psychological
needs or make others love you in an authentic way. Instead, advertising companies would emphasize that any product's
utility is limited to helping you get back and forth to the office or to
removing spots from your clothes, but really nothing more. (page 110)
Third, we should support those
corporations that are oriented towards intrinsic values rather than the
accumulation of more things. Perhaps
employees could receive pay for doing volunteer work in the local schools or
community organizations. Encouraging healthy
lifestyles for their employees and finding ways to improve the welfare of the
community surrounding their business should be corporate goals.
Fourth, we should vote for
governmental leaders who value something other than just increasing the
nation's wealth. Fifth, we should
emphasize providing security for all our citizens. Sixth, experiment with alternative economic systems such as
banking hours of helping each other or even alternative money only valid within
a certain area.
Should You Read This Book?
I strongly suspect that those who
most need to read this book are those most unlikely to take the time to do
so. I can guarantee that reading this
book will challenge you to look at yourself and determine just how materialistic
you are. Unfortunately, just changing
yourself won't affect society very much.
It may make you the oddball others laugh at or make jokes about. The final choice is yours: will "things" make you happy or
would satisfying other goals make you more content and happy with your life.
This book is rather heavy-duty
reading. It isn't intended for
everyone. I would love to see this
information rewritten in a style that would be easily comprehended by a high school
graduate or a highly educated social scientist. The information contained in this book needs to be conveyed to
the general public in a way that causes us to change our habits and our craving
for more things. Perhaps news programs
dealing with materialism could present a limited amount of information over the
course of several days. It doesn't
really matter how this information is conveyed; it is important that our
society come to realize that constantly seeking more and more things will only
lead to a nation of very unsatisfied people.
2003 Diana Pederson
Pederson lives in Lansing, Michigan.