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The desire for wealth and possessions

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 5448 words Published: 15th May 2017

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Materialism in American Society

Over the course of the last century America has undergone many societal changes, none of which have had as great an ethical effect as the nation’s transition towards ever increasing materialism. Materialism, or the desire for wealth and possessions, has faced virulent opposition for thousands of years from both religious institutions and social activists. Throughout time, materialism has been widely slandered not only as spiritually corrupting, but also as a major cause of a multitude of societal ills throughout the world. Although absolute materialism would obviously be awful for all involved, to date materialism has overall been very positive for American society, driving it towards ever-greater productive, intellectual, and ethical heights.

First, the most obvious benefit bestowed upon America by materialism is the increased productivity of its people. With the attainment of wealth and possessions as the predominant motivation, it is to be……

Is American materialism increasing?

Is American materialism increasing? To answer this question, we need only look at the current buying trends in present day society. Even a cursory glance at these trends would cause the question to be answered with a resounding YES! The pursuit of the American dream has become rather costly in that it is fraught with a large quantity of material possessions. The requirements to “keep up with the Joneses” are becoming more and more burdensome. Americans are made to feel that they absolutely must have certain things that had not even been invented just a few years ago. The increase in high tech, computerized, and digitized devices in the areas of electronics and household appliances has altered the landscape of the American home and family.

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What has fostered and fed these new trends? First and foremost, Americans will continue to subscribe to the pursuit of material goods, especially high tech devices for two basic reasons: the need for comfort and the need for entertainment. The deep, sometimes unspoken desire is to be coddled, catered to, and distracted. Embedded in this need for comfort and entertainment is the need for easy, quick access to information and resources. So, along with popping the family dinner into a microwave oven and eating the meal in a room with perfect temperature control, bill paying can be done from the comfort of home without ever writing a check or mailing an envelope. One can simply place his or her laptop on their laps from the comfort of any room in the house (thanks to a home-based wireless network), type in a few digits and press “go.” Any topic may be researched from the limitless stores along the information highway from how to treat a skin rash to exploring ancient religions.

Next, a parent can “talk” back and forth with a son or daughter in college or to an elderly mother halfway across the world. Such things were virtually unheard of many years ago. After the bill paying, research, and e-mailed correspondence, one can relax in the family room and choose from literally hundreds of movies or programs accessed through their cable or satellite TV provider. The picture will be viewed on a screen nearly covering the entire wall while the stereo sounds fill the entire room. These are just a few of the things that have become necessities, along with video games, luxury cars, summer homes, boats, designer clothing, and disposable contact lenses. These are the “must haves” of the American dream. Families, couples, and individuals expend hours, days, and years of their lives to obtain these things so that they may feel that they have “arrived” and so that they may be comfortable.

This increase in American materialism, unfortunately, exists along with other less fashionable increases; teen suicide, depression, divorce, the disintegration of the family, bankruptcy, and despair. It does not appear that those living by the law of materialism are necessarily happy or fulfilled. The increase in the pursuit of things is evident; satisfaction from possessing these things is suspect and spurious. Jesus declared in John 10:10b, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” He also asked the rhetorical question, “Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25b). While Americans continue to search and work for the “full life” it is urgent that they also discover the real source of full life.

Materialism And Consumerism In The 1920s

A crucial transformation to the structure of American culture during the 1920s was the rise of consumerism and materialism. As the country experienced an extraordinary economic boom, the outlook of America shifted. People began receiving higher wages, and there was a sudden increase of spending on discretionary goods which advertisements claimed people could not live without. The progress of the automobile industry, radio and motion picture production, and advanced technologies made it possible for this great escalation of the economy. There were many notable critics of the decade that made their opinions known in various ways. One such critic was F. Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote the novel The Great Gatsby. In this novel, he is critical of the 1920s as the obsession of consumerism and materialism flourish throughout the United States. Fitzgerald feels that it is this mindset that ultimately leads to the tragedies and miseries at the end of the novel, as well as at the foreseen end of the 1920s.

The Great Gatsby portrays an image of abundant leisure and excess, which parallels similar ideas with those of the 1920s. To illustrate this, Nick Carraway, the story’s narrator, compares his “eye-sore” of a house with the man

In addition to Jay Gatsby, materialistic and consumerist elements are also present in other characters in the novel. Daisy Buchannan becomes conscious of the fact that her husband Tom is cheating on her, yet she does nothing about it. It can be argued that she doesn’t confront him, or threaten to leave him because Tom has all the money that she could ever need. That is what truly matters to Daisy and what will always make her happy, not honesty and commitment, but financial benefits. Also all the people in attendance at Gatsby’s parties are guilty. They have no problem showing up at his home to party, drink, and dance all night long, but when it came to his funeral, “the minister glanced several times at his watch so I took him aside and asked him to wait for half an hour. But it wasn’t any use. Nobody came” (p. 182). This shows that all those materialistic party-goers weren’t really friends of Gatsby, but just there to use him for his wealth with no common courtesy for him. Another character in the novel, Jordan Baker, seems to be rather superficial in her outlook on life. She appears to lie her way out of bad situations she may get herself in, and her lack of honesty and careless attitude are some of the factors that turn Nick away. Nick says “she wasn’t able to endure being at a disadvantage” (p. 63). Another character, Meyer Wolfshiem, Gatsby’s business associate, apparently had been the man responsible for fixing the 1919 World Series. It is fitting that Fitzgerald included a Wolfshiem type of character in his novel, for the fixing of the World Series mirrored the idea that money could buy any American utterly anything, even love and happiness.

As Americans continued to gain material prosperity, in return, they began to lack spiritual wealth and strong religious faith. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald depicts a world in which value systems have been distorted and religion faded. It illustrates a nation that gets too caught up in the moment to reali

1. The theory or attitude that physical well-being and worldly possessions constitute the greatest good and highest value in life.

Advertising generates new needs and establishes brand loyalties. Ads alert people to both new products and new versions of old ones. Consumption today is not only about keeping up with the Joneses. The labels you wear, the food you eat, the restaurants you frequent, the haircut you flaunt, where you go on holiday, even your spiritual cravings are social symbols. What is happening to the average man, the man who is caught in the web of a consumerist and materialistic culture with all the temptations it offers him? The general scenario is one of utter helplessness and nobody seems to have any control over his future. Added to this is the acquisitive tendency of those who are tempted to go for all kinds of things the market offers. A kind of insatiable greed seems to have taken control of all of us and no effort is being made anywhere to limit one’s wants. And this has become a global phenomenon and no country seems to be free from it. Thus the average man finds himself to be tr!

In conclusion, most advertisements do not tell the whole story. They neglect to tell you the problems that their car can cause the environment. In most of these cases the advertising agency attempts to gain your interest through certain aesthetics in the ad. I chose to show a car ad because they have so many components that directly effect society and the environment in a harmful way. Because car ads like to show you what the ideal car (without pollution) would be like, society needs to simply keep in mind that what you see is NOT always what you get.

Carbon dioxide is another gas released through exhaust emissions. It isn’t dangerous directly to humans, but it is considered to be a “green house gas.” A “greenhouse gas” is a gas that is associated with global warming. Global warming is the gradual increase of temperature due to human activity. Certain gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and ozone allow radiation from the sun to break through the atmosphere and go to the earth’s surface. Global warming affects all living things on the entire planet.1 In a few ads, like the Outback commercials, you see the car in the wilderness with green lively trees and wild life flourishing. A true, maybe exaggerated, depiction would be animals suffering from car pollution and the sky covered by smog. One of the most important things that is neglected is the fact that, there may not be a hugely visible affect of pollution where you are but in other parts of the world there is plenty; in other words, we have only one Earth.

The fact that most of society does not care enough about the environment to take a bus, or carpool to minimize the amount of hydrocarbons in the air, only encourages manufacturers. Sure society can say that in a few years we won’t have to worry about these emissions and there is nothing to worry about now. That sounds great, except following the trend of the human race thus far, we have only created more harmful and destructive things such as the atom bomb and biological warfare. The thing to keep in mind is that the things that affect the environment now may be gone in a few years, but who is to say there will not be something even worse

Materialism: As Seen Through Four Different Authors

As defined materialism refers to the theory that physical matter is the only reality and that everything, including thought, feeling, mind, and will, can be explained in terms of matter and physical phenomena. Although it is far too easy to merely look up the definitions of materialism understanding the concept is rather difficult. To help with the comprehension of materialism we take a look at four renowned authors who are tied to the idea of materialism. These four men are Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Morton Fried, and Marvin Harris.

First we take a look at Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles, who collaborated to produce Feuerbach: Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlook. Both Marx and Engles were idealist in every sense, they grasp on reality was far reaching. Although they were both idealists, Engles believed that ideas where what shaped people, and that if a person where to think like a wealthy land owner they would indeed start feeling like a wealthy land owner. Marx on the other hand had a more sensible approach he felt that means of production were what drove society not ideas. The things in particular that drove society were not only basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and protection, but also, money, need for material things, division of labor, exchange, and ownership. Ownership is a concept that ties in with materialism, ownership as presented in the article has various forms. The first form of ownership is tribal ownership which is limited to within the family. This is followed by state ownership which is where there is a collaboration of many tribes which have the power to control the workers only under their state ownership. Finally, there is estate property which gave rise to the concept of princes and peasants. As we can already see these different…


I can get no satisfaction…

There is something perverse about more than enough. When we have more, it is never enough. It is always somewhere out there, just out of reach. The more we acquire, the more elusive enough becomes.


Materialism is today’s religion. We always value ourselves by what we wear, what we drive or how much we can spend. Brands are taking over the world very fast and today a 3 year old child is more likely to recognize and remember McDonalds than to know his last name. (Lynas, 2007)

As the quantity and variety of brands and products grow, so does our need to have it all, apparently we can get no satisfaction. But what is materialism and why is it spreading so quickly around the world?

The two most important definitions of materialism include those of Belk (1984,1985) and Richins and Dawson (1992). Belk describes materialism as “believing the acquisition and possession of thing is the ultimate source of happiness”. Richins and Dawson define materialism as a “set of centrally held beliefs about the importance of possessions in one’s life.”

The people who follow this trend are the perfect consumers, willing to buy anything the industry convinces will make them feel better. They are easy prey for advertisement and follow it without further thinking. When buying they are low involved and not pay attention to the product characteristics.

But why do people focus so much on their possessions and turn into materialists?

Researchers have found that family communication is a decisive factor when determining if a person will become materialistic or not. Families where parents do not fulfill the children’s needs, adolescents who do not have good communication with their parents and who make social…

Ethics Of Materialism

Repercussions of Materialism

Materialism and the want of consumer goods, has proved to be a prevalent force in the last century. When superficially thinking about materialism, one would not immediately register that there is a relationship between materialism and ethics; although, under examination, we can see that there is indeed a great association between the two. Are materialism and the obsessive consumer culture we have made for ourselves ethical? People’s opinion on this question can be polar opposites. Some people believe that materialism has great benefits for the technological and economic growth, while others argue that materialism strips people of their individuality and creates unethical division between the rich and the poor. It’s very easy to understand why someone would chose to live a life full of materialism as there is a lot of luxuries, lavishes and comfort. However, looking at it deeper, consumers have now become victims of this never ending cycle of materialism where they always want the newest and latest goods. Also, people who cannot afford to pay for these products try and find illegal and immoral ways to gain wealth so they can be accepted in society. So, although materialism promotes technology and modernity, excessive amounts of it creates a division between social classes, which causes poor people to act unethically in order to live up to the materialistic standards society has created.

The goal of a materialistic life style is to be on the top of the social hierarchy, to be recognized as the most powerful and to be able to flaunt the greatest amount of luxuries. Without consciously realizing it most of us judge others on their status and position in society. This means, that we are internally programmed to look at people based on the amount of materialistic goods they have. This is one of the main reasons why people who can not afford to live up to the materialistic standards set by the privileged, have to resort to unethical means…

American Materialism

Materialism in American Society

Over the course of the last century America has undergone many societal changes, none of which have had as great an ethical effect as the nation’s transition towards ever increasing materialism. Materialism, or the desire for wealth and possessions, has faced virulent opposition for thousands of years from both religious institutions and social activists. Throughout time, materialism has been widely slandered not only as spiritually corrupting, but also as a major cause of a multitude of societal ills throughout the world. Although absolute materialism would obviously be awful for all involved, to date materialism has overall been very positive for American society, driving it towards ever-greater productive, intellectual, and ethical heights.

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First, the most obvious benefit bestowed upon America by materialism is the increased productivity of its people. With the attainment of wealth and possessions as the predominant motivation, it is to be expected that the majority of Americans go to great lengths to attain material success. Even with such a relatively short lifetime as a nation, America’s capitalist beliefs have catapulted it to the forefront of the world as the only true modern superpower. One of the most significant factors contributing to America’s dramatic rise in power is the capitalistic drive for success and achievement, a love for material possessions that has manifested itself in the typically American value of hard work, both in ones profession and in school. Since education and socioeconomic position are closely correlated, it is not surprising that America is the worldwide leader in higher education.

Not only does America produce great thinkers, but it also attracts the best and the brightest of other countries, people who are drawn to America’s freedom of thought and the material possibilities that abound. So many great minds have made America a land of unprecedented innovation. The copious amounts of money…


Materialism: Can it make you Happy?

Can Greed and Materialism lead to true happiness? “Greed is good. Greed is right. Greed works and greed will save the USA.” (Wall Street) “Cause we are living in a material world and I am a material girl” a theme in one of Madonna’s most famous songs.

Greed and materialism stand in apposition to any manifestation of true happiness. People are under a false perception that money will solve all of their problems and as a result bring them their utmost joy and happiness. Many psychologists, philosophers, and religious figures throughout the ages have refuted this assertion. People in American society take money very seriously because it can either make or break your life choices. In order to fit in today’s society Americans feel the need to obtain material assets so that they are looked upon as being “in style” or being economically sufficient. Money and greed is the main factors that cause people to be in debt. People today work hard to obtain wealth and success not so that they can be happy but just because they want to “keep up with the Jones”. Money can only make you happy temporally because if you are working hard just so that you can buy material things you really are not going to enjoy them because all of your time and energy is put into maintaining your material wealth by working extra hard.

It is Normal to think that money is not everything in life, although in the world we live in your not going to accomplish anything or get anywhere or even live a life that is considered normal to the world without money. Even though you cannot buy love or happiness you are very unlikely to find either if your living under a bridge. We rely on money, if all the money in the world disappeared tomorrow the world, as we know it would collapse. Everything is connected to money in some way. Everything essentially has a price tag on it if your pocket is fat enough. This is what makes money extremely appealing. But money shouldn’t be the…

Materialism Is The Root Of All Evil

There is an old adage which says, “The root of all evil is money.” This, however, is not true in America. In America, money is not the problem, the love of money, or materialism, is the problem. Materialism is at the core of our American dream. We grow up learning that success is rooted in material wealth and power. We live in a country where material things mean more to the general populous than a good

education, where material things dictate the amount of money we spend, and where material things motivate our lives in most every way; something needs to change. Realizing that we are corrupted by materialism is not difficult. What is difficult, however, is finding a solution to the problem.

Habits recognizes the difficulty by saying, “And since we have believed in that dream for a long time and worked very hard to make it come true, it is hard for us to give it up, even though it contradicts another dream that we have- that of living in a society that would really be worth living in.” (Bella, et. Al. 285)

Materialism is closely tied to our individualism. We are taught to pursue our materialistic American dream, to get ahead in life, to be somebody, to pursue our own happiness. Even our own Declaration of Independence assumes we are individuals first and for most: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. . .” For Americans to be primarily self-reliant and selfish is not surprising. Americans only do what is beneficial to themselves, if it helps someone along the way, then that’s great, but helping people is not their initial motive.

In order to have the necessary balance between individualism and community, we must be willing to give and then, only after giving, take what has been given to us. If we learn to give, and then take what has been given to us, we…


In the oxford English dictionary materialism is described as a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values. This theory is far more than a simple focus on material possessions. It states that everything in the universe is matter, without any true spiritual or intellectual existence. We live in a world surrounded by and composed of matter. It is natural; therefore, that we may become distracted from spiritual or intellectual pursuits by material possessions, but this is frequently where problems occur. We can become obsessed by a desire to obtain them, or simply frustrated by the need to maintain them. In a short play called Rodeo written by Jane Martin, a young girl name Lurlene, becomes unsuitable for the rodeo because she doesn’t dress like a showgirl and wear material clothes (Martin 9). In an essay called Super-Size It written by Lisa Colletti, consumer commodity and must need material possessions are major concerns in the daily lives of Americans. Money is a valuable thing and wasting it on unnecessary items is a sin.

Contrary to popular belief, Americans spend on average $3500.00 a year on unnecessary products such as a new iPod, a flat screen TV, a computer, clothes, dining out or a vacation. Nowadays, new products advertised on TV make the people watching it feel as if they need to buy that item. This is the problem with Americans; we buy what we don’t need just so we can say I have that! And show off to our friends. We spend money we don’t have just to be up to date with the latest fashion trends. It’s unethical what this world is coming to, what happened to the days were people watched every penny they made and only bought necessary items. Stores that have been in business for decades are being remodeled by new management in order to lour in customers. In the same fashion, Lurlene from the story Rodeo is kicked to the curb by new management because she is not up to date with the new fashion…

True Materialism

It is human nature for people to desire material possessions. Our material yearnings are an attempt to satisfy are need to special and wanted. In a world where most of society defines “socially acceptable” as the material possessions one owns such as, the latest clothing, the biggest house, or the fastest car one comes to believe that you need all of these things to be viewed as a part of society. For many, work has taken over community life and has had a major effect on happiness. Advertising has also become a primary determinant of our satisfaction, and is only a small part of a larger materialistic culture in which we are not only enticed customers but also prominent consumers. We have been beguiled into believing that material possessions will bring satisfaction and happiness. We imagine ourselves as being more than we are and in this we see how powerful images are.

As a teenager I have fallen victim to the web of deceit and lies that has been spun by the stereotypical belief that we need to buy the latest fashion or the best technological devices. I put a lot of effort in my appearance and my material possessions. I watch and look at the advertisements and the images presented within them wishing that I had, or could afford what they are selling. I have come to realize that I am a very materialistic person and that I buy expensive phones, cars and clothing in order to appear better than others who do not have what I have. For instance, I wanted a new cell phone that cost well over four-hundred dollars. So I got a second job just to afford it. Another instance was when I bought my new car. It is a 2006 Phantom. I now have three jobs just to afford the car note, insurance, gas, and general up-keep of the car. This only goes to show that I have become so enamored with the desire for material possessions that I will go to unearthly lengths to obtain them.

Some of the possessions I have show me for what I want to be, but not for who I really am. My cell phone,…

Has America known its finest hour? Are we losing our religion and sanity as well? What is wrong with our society anyway? These are baffling questions that are frequently being asked by more and more people, even the media.

From environmental pollution to spiritual pollution, from artificial food to artificial joy – these are the side effects of the pursuit of materialism (a by-product of the American Dream, as we know it). Today, everything is fair game in the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain and personal responsibility, not to mention the absence of morality and a wholesome values system.

Is America at risk of reaching a point of no return, or worse becoming a third world nation? According to universal laws, it’s all a simple matter of cause and effect or as it’s been said “as you sow so shall you reap.” What we are witnessing is the powerful consequences of these laws from which no one is exempt.

We live in a time characterized by a modern battle between good and evil which can be defined as limited awareness (the norm) and integrity and enlightenment (which are the exception). It’s a time when chaos and anarchy are the order of the day. While technologically we may live in a space age, morally we are still living in the stone age as reflected in our social ills, the failure of our systems and institutions and the growing conflicts both domestically and internationally.

One of the greatest human tragedies is not the lack of resources and/or control over our own circumstances, but rather the lack of awareness. Whether we realize it or not, the current climate of insanity, including terrorism, is a reflection of a moral and spiritual crisis. It’s indicative of our denial of our own spiritual roots and the perception that we are separated, which eventually leads to conflicts and even wars.

An engineer can look at the foundation of a building under construction and tell you its eventual height and even fate of a structure. Similarly, a society is as strong and free as the pillars of the spirit upon which it’s built. Spiritual roots are the foundation upon which total prosperity and peace and harmony are built. When we reject concepts of spirituality, integrity and morality – we also deny the greatest part of our existence (our spirit) which enables us to prosper and experience a fuller life of meaning, purpose, real joy, fulfillment and peace (inner and outer). By so doing, we also deny our access to the ultimate real and positive power, the ever-present force (God) that builds and doesn’t destroy. That’s because we are spiritual beings experiencing the human experience and not the other way around. As such we were designed and meant to live a life of meaning and purpose through spirit and integrity beyond the narrow boundaries of the material world.

In a materialistic-driven society where vanity, not virtue, is worshipped, all the things we used to hold dear like, religion, marriage, family, loyalty, faithfulness, hard work, and being of service to the community are no longer sacred. Instead consumerism, in the spirit of “He with the most toys lives,” rather then “He with the most joys lives,” is promoted and driven by profit and greed to the point that even a holiday like Christmas is now more of a marketing concept and devoid of any real meaning.

The media, especially Hollywood, is also at fault. Rather than celebrating excellence and the human spirit, by promoting positive concepts such as personal responsibility, making a difference, tolerance, kindness, giving and sensitivity to the human condition, the media produces shows and movies that celebrate human weakness, vanity and perversion. These productions promote social ills such as anti-social behavior, excessive self-indulgence and entitlement, instant gratification, greed, corruption, compromised integrity and obsession with external, shallow values, including the obsession with fame, fortune, and youth. This has led to a significant increase in substance abuse, senseless violence in our schools, and increased teen suicide.

You can blame it all on the pursuit of the American Dream, as we know it, which is an illusion based on a materialistic values system characterized by corruption, greed, compromised integrity and the erosion of morality whereby the love of power overcomes the power of love. It certainly does not represent the true spirit of America, which was based on perspiration, innovation, risk and reward and where the focus used to be on a strong work ethic, high integrity, family and community. All of which created a nation of producers with an enviable prosperity that created real joy and fulfillment.

It’s obvious that America has gone off track and is in desperate need for healing and revival if we are to maintain a free and thriving nation, not to mention our leadership in the international arena. The solution to restoring our spirits and our economy is through increased awareness and by reconnecting with our spiritual roots. Awareness can be used as a useful tool to better understand the unity of life, our place in the universe and ourselves. By understanding ourselves better, we come to understand God as the


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