Though it cannot be denied that modern society is profoundly materialistic, there is nothing inherently wrong with a society that values the production and consumption of material goods. Ample historical evidence suggests that societies that devalue capital wealth and material gain will be unstable and short-lived. Materialism – whatever value we place upon it – creates a stable societal structure.
Just turn on the television, peruse the magazine covers in a supermarket, listen to any one of the top forty radio hits and you will be immediately faced with the rampant materialism of modern society.
What do we value? Material wealth and celebrity. Why do we worship Paris Hilton, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos. Steve Jobs? Because they have tremendous buying power and perceived power.
What shows do we watch? American Idol, Cribs, Pimp My Ride, My Sweet 16 to name a few. All these shows lift conspicuous consumption and flagrant displays of wealth and hedonism to elevated levels. Our society is very much like the ancient materialistic society of Rome- in which wealth and power were paramount.
Thus it cannot be denied that a materialist spirit pervades modern society.
But who’s to say that materialism is wrong? Our philosophers praise the virtues of materialism. Our prophets include the venerable John Smith, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Keynes and all the myriad materialistic philosophers. And how the anti-materialist philosophers have waned in influence and been discarded to the waste bin of history: Karl Marx, Lenin, Charles Fourrier all have been relegated to the trash heap.
Capitalism is the ethos of the day- the driving force of our world. Just ask the Chinese, the Russians, who have discarded their antiquated philosophies in exchange for a more durable, albeit potentially cynical materialism. Materialism acknowledges our innate desire to have more than our neighbors, to do better than the Jones. Because it caters to an inborn human need, materialism will always provide a more stable structure for a society.
Modern society is deeply materialistic. That’s because materialism works. It validates human needs and desires and works with man’s actual structure rather than the same lofty ideal or fantasy. Let us then celebrate our pervasive materialism and acknowledge its efficacy and virtue.