Center for a New American Dream: The High Price of Materialism

“The more that people values materialistic aspirations and goals, the lower their happiness and life satisfaction.”

If we want to live in a happier, more socially just and ecologically sustainable world, we need to reduce the power of materialism in our personal lives and in society. This is the premise set forth in “The High Price of Materialism,” a short video by the Center for a New American Dream and Tim Kasser, Professor and Chair of Psychology at Knox College. 

The video uses graphic recording techniques (a way of tracking narration through visual notetaking) to illustrate how our culture of consumerism negatively affects our sense of wellbeing, our social relationships, and our connection to nature. Kasser explains how individuals that endorse financial and status seeking behaviors are less likely to engage in environmentally beneficial activities. He poses the following way forward:

  1. Understand what causes people to prioritize materialistic values (often it is feelings of insecurity) and counteract these feelings with pro-social and environmental behaviors (i.e. spending time with friends or in nature).
  2. Since exposure to media can lead to materialism, participate in efforts to remove advertising from one’s personal life and public spaces.
  3. Find ways to express intrinsic values in order to promote personal, social and ecological well-being and immunize oneself against materialism.

Throughout the video, Kasser stresses that lifestyle changes are insufficient and must be paired with advocacy for policies that take intrinsic values, such as citizen well-being and ecological sustainability, into account.  The message is for us to live the “good” life, not the “goods” life.

Learn more about the Center for a New American Dream.


Strategic Approach: Audiences
Type: Campaign
Strategic Approach: Audiences
Type: Campaign

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