Economic materialism
This article addresses materialism in the economic sense of the word. For information on the philosophical and scientific meanings, see materialism
In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance...


Materialism (adj. materialistic) is a mindset
In decision theory and general systems theory, a mindset is a set of assumptions, methods or notations held by one or more people or groups of people which is so established that it creates a powerful incentive within these people or groups to continue to adopt or accept prior behaviors, choices,...

 that views the consumption and acquisition of material goods as positive and desirable. It is often bound up with a value system
Value system
A value system is a set of consistent ethic values and measures used for the purpose of ethical or ideological integrity. A well defined value system is a moral code.-Personal and communal:...

 which regards social status
Social status
In sociology or anthropology, social status is the honor or prestige attached to one's position in society . It may also refer to a rank or position that one holds in a group, for example son or daughter, playmate, pupil, etc....

 as being intrinsically linked to affluence (see conspicuous consumption
Conspicuous consumption
Conspicuous consumption is spending on goods and services acquired mainly for the purpose of displaying income or wealth. In the mind of a conspicuous consumer, such display serves as a means of attaining or maintaining social status....

) as well as the perception that happiness can be increased through buying, spending and accumulating material wealth. Positively, materialism might be considered a pragmatic form of enlightened self-interest based on a prudent understanding of the character of capitalist society. Negatively, it is considered a crass if not false value system induced by the spell of commodity fetishism
Commodity fetishism
In Marx's critique of political economy, commodity fetishism denotes the mystification of human relations said to arise out of the growth of market trade, when social relationships between people are expressed as, mediated by and transformed into, objectified relationships between things .The...

 and void of more noble and worthy values.


Opposition to economic materialism comes from many sources including religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

, environmentalism
Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements...

 and social activism. Many religions oppose materialism because of the belief that it interferes with spirituality
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop...

 and the divine
Divinity and divine are broadly applied but loosely defined terms, used variously within different faiths and belief systems — and even by different individuals within a given faith — to refer to some transcendent or transcendental power or deity, or its attributes or manifestations in...

, or that it leads to an immoral lifestyle. Some social activists believe that materialism is often a source of societal ills such as war
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

, crime
Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...

, poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

, oppression
Oppression is the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner. It can also be defined as an act or instance of oppressing, the state of being oppressed, and the feeling of being heavily burdened, mentally or physically, by troubles, adverse conditions, and...

 and genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

. A main concern is that materialism is unable to offer a proper raison d'être for human existence. Supporters of environmentalism feel that increasing materialism is unsustainable, especially when coupled with population growth, and most often leads to an increased destruction of nature.

See also

  • Adverse selection
    Adverse selection
    Adverse selection, anti-selection, or negative selection is a term used in economics, insurance, statistics, and risk management. It refers to a market process in which "bad" results occur when buyers and sellers have asymmetric information : the "bad" products or services are more likely to be...

  • Consumerism
    Consumerism is a social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts. The term is often associated with criticisms of consumption starting with Thorstein Veblen...

  • Cultural Creatives
    Cultural Creatives
    Cultural Creatives is a term coined by sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson to describe a large segment in Western society that has recently developed beyond the standard paradigm of Modernists or Progressives versus Traditionalists or Conservatives...

  • Capitalism
    Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

  • Gambling
    Gambling is the wagering of money or something of material value on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning additional money and/or material goods...

  • Geoffrey Miller (evolutionary psychologist)
    Geoffrey Miller (evolutionary psychologist)
    Geoffrey F. Miller , Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of New Mexico, is an American evolutionary psychologist.Miller is a 1987 graduate of Columbia University, where he earned a B.A. in biology and psychology. He received his PhD in cognitive psychology from Stanford University...

  • Peace War Game
    Peace war game
    An iterated game originally played in academic groups and by computer simulation for years to study possible strategies of cooperation and aggression. As peace makers became richer over time it became clear that making war had greater costs than initially anticipated...

     - not a wargame
    A wargame is a strategy game that deals with military operations of various types, real or fictional. Wargaming is the hobby dedicated to the play of such games, which can also be called conflict simulations, or consims for short. When used professionally to study warfare, it is generally known as...

    , as such, rather a simulation
    Simulation is the imitation of some real thing available, state of affairs, or process. The act of simulating something generally entails representing certain key characteristics or behaviours of a selected physical or abstract system....

     of economic decisions underlying war
    War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

  • Post-materialism
    The concept of post-materialism is a tool in developing an understanding of modern culture. It can be considered in reference of three distinct concepts of materialism...

  • Status Anxiety
    Status Anxiety
    Status Anxiety is a nonfiction book by Alain de Botton. It was first published in 2004 by Hamish Hamilton; subsequent publications have been by Penguin Books.-Central thesis:...

  • Tim Kasser
    Tim Kasser
    Tim Kasser is an American psychologist and book author known for his work on materialism and well-being.After receiving his Ph.D...

  • Traditionalist School
    Traditionalist School
    The term Traditionalist School is used by Mark Sedgwick and other authors to denote a school of thought, also known as Integral Traditionalism or Perennialism to denote an esoteric movement developed by authors such as French metaphysician René Guénon, German-Swiss...

     - A radically anti-"economistic", anti-materialist philosophical movement developed by Rene Guenon
    René Guénon
    René Guénon , also known as Shaykh `Abd al-Wahid Yahya was a French author and intellectual who remains an influential figure in the domain of metaphysics, having written on topics ranging from metaphysics, sacred science and traditional studies to symbolism and initiation.In his writings, he...

     and Julius Evola
    Julius Evola
    Barone Giulio Cesare Andrea Evola also known as Julius Evola, was an Italian philosopher and esotericist...

  • Material feminism
    Material feminism
    Material feminism examines the "material conditions under which social arrangements, including those of gender hierarchy, develop" It argues that "material conditions of all sorts play a vital role in the social production of gender"....

External links

Scientific American. 'Can money buy happiness?'
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