Materialism's effects on society

Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

Society is affected by materialism, which considers possessions more important than values, and its effects range from psychological to economic.

Materialism is sometimes used as a status symbol, causing people to purchase items they cannot afford, simply to fit in with an affluent crowd, or to "keep up with the Joneses." Materialism, although a motivating force in today's world economy, can erode value systems and affect a person's overall happiness.

Economic Effects

While materialism provides the demand for countless goods and services throughout the world, the greatest impact is often at a more personal level. According to the article "What is the Impact of Materialism on Economics?" materialistic people tend to gravitate to "Conspicuous Consumption," which is purchasing in order to flaunt wealth. Materialistic people tend to save less, which, in turn, lessens capital investment, weakening economic expansion. Insurmountable consumer debts caused by materialism affects the real estate market and the credit industry.

Spiritual Effects

Materialism affects societies' spirituality by placing material goods over core values. Materialism's goals promote selfishness and a sense of accumulation as being equivalent to happiness and success. Some, such as the All About Philosophy website, believe materialism is a form of brainwashing and removes any personal responsibility, because it "promotes that thought is dictated biologically and by environment," removing any spiritual guidelines to decisions made.

Effects on Teenagers

Teenagers are directly affected by materialism, which often has psychological effects, as they are driven to trendy and expensive items. In the article "Supportive Parents Can Reduce Materialism in Teens," John and Lan Nguyen Chaplin of Villanova University believe materialism is related to self-esteem issues, and that materialism in teens has accelerated over the last few decades. Materialism in teens also translates into bullying, as they are pressured into adopting the latest trends, and often taunted if they are without them. The Chaplins believe this is a serious societal trend, and receiving emotional support from parents and peers is a solution.

Materialism and Crime

In the pursuit of material possessions, turning to crime is not unheard of. In the article "Materialism Fuels Youth Crime Levels," Heidi Watson, of the Damiola Taylor Trust, writes, "There must be a culture change around materialism if youth crime is to fall." Watson believes that materialism often drives behaviour, and much of it is fuelled by marketing. Marketing often glamorises crime with images of criminals living extravagant lifestyles. In Richard Farson's "Paradoxes of Crime," the author expresses the belief that the "American Way," with its materialism and consumerism, forces many in the poorer classes to turn to crime as a way to achieve the "Good Life."