What is Materialism?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2019
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Materialism in terms of consumership has to do with the strong desire to accumulate possessions as a form of wealth. People who are considered materialistic tend to place more importance on this acquisition of wealth and the status that comes with it over other matters, such as spirituality and relationships. While materialism can be a positive factor in the building of any economy, excess expressions of this trait can also lead to a great deal of damage to individuals as well as to the community.

In terms of consumerism and capitalism, the presence of materialism can actually be a good thing. A desire to acquire items that will make life easier or provide more entertainment help to stimulate an economy and encourage the process of free enterprise. Marketing and sales campaigns often appeal to the materialism inherent in many consumers by promoting goods and services as being highly desirable and providing a certain amount of status to anyone who acquires the products.


As part of the process of consumption, materialism is often based on the task of providing continual satisfaction. In some cases, materialists gain this satisfaction by purchasing goods that are likely to last for an extended period of time, such as a vehicle or home. At other times, the focus of materialism is to entice consumers to buy products which provide short-term satisfaction, but must be re-purchased from time to time as newer versions are released. Home computers, hand held devices, and home entertainment equipment are examples of short term goods that are likely to be replaced within a year or so by a new and purportedly more desirable products.

At its best, materialism promotes a climate where people are able to engage in business activities that generate income and financial security. The desire to acquire motivates developers to constantly look for ways to enhance existing products in order to compete with other developers, or to develop entirely new products that will make older selections obsolete and thus no longer desirable. Within this type of climate, the consumer benefits, since there are more options to consider when acquiring goods or service and thus adding to personal wealth.

However, when materialism becomes the main focus of life, the results can be devastating. Materialists who are overly concerned with the acquisition of wealth and possessions may find themselves pushing away loved ones, missing out on opportunities to meet new people, or even enjoy those items they have acquired. When this is the case, counseling is often helpful in the task to regain perspective and return the inclination towards materialism to a more equitable position within life’s priorities.


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Post 2

There are times when I shop a lot. I fell guilty about it afterward though because I think of people who don't have any money. I also worry that I could have used that money as donation to help someone, rather than buying yet another piece of cosmetic.

At the same time though, shopping is sort of like therapy for me. It really makes me excited and happy. I'm not the type that is spiritual, I'd rather get a new gadget. I am trying to keep it in check though. Like I said, I try to think about other people who don't have enough to get by. I like to donate at least a little bit every month and that makes me feel better. Then I feel that it's okay to go shopping.

What do you guys do to keep your materialistic side in check?

Post 1

Isn't materialism usually presented as an all or nothing situation? What I mean is that we must either be materialistic or spiritual. We either value belongings or relationships.

This way of looking at it is too white and black for me. I think that everything is good in moderation. Someone who enjoys purchasing can also have a spiritual life and healthy relationships and they should. And someone who decides to lead a life with little emphasis on material wealth doesn't have to move to the Himalayas and meditate on a hilltop.

The great part of living in the developed global world is that we can realize the value of different experiences and choose to have all of them.

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