“CONSUMERISM, it must be noted, afflicts not merely the upper class in affluent societies but also the middle class and many in the working class. Large numbers of people across society believe that they work merely to make ends meet, but an examination of their shopping lists and closets reveals that they spend good parts of their income on status goods such as brand-name clothing, the “right” kind of car, and other assorted items that they don’t really need…
Limiting consumption is not a reflection of failure. Rather, it represents liberation from an obsession–a chance to abandon consumerism and focus on … well, what exactly? What should replace the worship of consumer goods?
The kind of culture that would best serve a Maslowian hierarchy of needs is hardly one that would kill the goose that lays the golden eggs–the economy that can provide the goods needed for basic creature comforts. Nor one that merely mocks the use of consumer goods to respond to higher needs. It must be a culture that extols sources of human flourishing besides acquisition. The two most obvious candidates to fill this role are communitarian pursuits and transcendental ones.
From: The New Republic, Spent by Amitai Etzioni, America after consumerism. Post Date Wednesday, June 17, 2009. Amitai Etzioni served as president of the American Sociological Association and is the author of The Active Society.
The photograph is of a piece of pottery from Indonesia. According to Amitai Etzioni: Before the spirit of capitalism swept across much of the world, neither work nor commerce were highly valued pursuits–indeed, they were often delegated to scorned minorities such as Jews. For centuries in aristocratic Europe and Japan, making war was a highly admired profession. In China, philosophy, poetry, and brush painting were respected during the heyday of the literati.