The High Price of Materialism

MIT Press
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A study of how materialism and consumerism undermine our quality of life.

In The High Price of Materialism, Tim Kasser offers a scientific explanation of how our contemporary culture of consumerism and materialism affects our everyday happiness and psychological health. Other writers have shown that once we have sufficient food, shelter, and clothing, further material gains do little to improve our well-being. Kasser goes beyond these findings to investigate how people's materialistic desires relate to their well-being. He shows that people whose values center on the accumulation of wealth or material possessions face a greater risk of unhappiness, including anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and problems with intimacy—regardless of age, income, or culture.

Drawing on a decade's worth of empirical data, Kasser examines what happens when we organize our lives around materialistic pursuits. He looks at the effects on our internal experience and interpersonal relationships, as well as on our communities and the world at large. He shows that materialistic values actually undermine our well-being, as they perpetuate feelings of insecurity, weaken the ties that bind us, and make us feel less free. Kasser not only defines the problem but proposes ways we can change ourselves, our families, and society to become less materialistic.

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About the author

Tim Kasser is Associate Professor of Psychology at Knox College, Illinois.

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Additional Information

Publisher
MIT Press
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Published on
Aug 29, 2003
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Pages
165
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ISBN
9780262250344
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Language
English
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Genres
Psychology / Applied Psychology
Psychology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Arising from the Cohens' work on the epidemiology of childhood psychopathology, this book explores the two aspects of motivational structure--ideas and values--that underlie the development of maladaptive functioning and symptoms. The first aspect is a measure of what children admire in their peers; this measure is seen as an operationalization of personal ideals. The second is a measure of life goals, seen as a representation of the contemporary structure of long-term personal values.

Despite the considerable amount of attention given in the popular press and among social critics and politicians, values have been relatively neglected as a topic of empirical research in this country. To fill the void, this work uses data from a large cohort of young people who have been studied longitudinally since early childhood to elucidate three aspects of life goals and values:
* What are the demographic, family, peer, school, and intrapersonal influences that shape values and life goals of adolescents?
* How do they change over the course of adolescence?
* What impact do these values have on the lives of adolescents and young adults?

Decisions about what we find most admirable and which of the many apparently good things in life we will take on as our top priorities are consequential both for the contemporary and for the future emotional and behavioral well-being of the individual. Thus, this book explores systematically the environmental origins of ideals and values, using deprivation and attainment hypotheses to examine a variety of influences on the development of differences in values. This book also examines the relationship between the measures of children's values and psychopathology, examining both the "Axis 1" diagnosis, including disruptive behavior disorders, depression, and anxiety, and the "Axis 2" personality disorders.

Providing an extensive study of the life values of adolescents and the state of their mental health, this monograph will be of interest to developmental psychologists specializing in adolescence, child clinical psychologists, and psychiatrists.
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