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The High Price of Materialism
by Marshall Glickman
By Tim Kasser
165 pages, $14.95
Reviewed by Marshall Glickman
Whether adopted consciously or unconsciously, materialism is bad -- both as a philosophy and a way of life. I know that; you know that; and several eloquent and well-researched books, from Thoreau's Walden to Juliet Schor's The Overworked American and The Overspent American, have explained it well. Materialism creates a drain on the planet. It leads to some having too much while others are left cold and hungry. Even "the haves" suffer from materialism's excesses: from anxiety, tension, low self-esteem, and from being busy, busy, busy. So if most of us already know materialism is harmful, why another book on the topic?
What psychology professor Tim Kasser has done in The High Price of Materialism, arguably better than anyone else, is use scientific data to make a case against materialism. Happily, he manages to do this without turning The High Price of Materialism into a dry textbook-style tome choking from too many charts and graphs. Through the skillful citing of a wide range of statistical studies (including his own original work), Kasser essentially proves materialism is b-a-d. His hope is that just as conclusive medical research has led to powerful reasons to quit smoking and better guidelines for nutrition, the research he has compiled will lead to better, widely accepted spending and working practices.
It's important to keep in mind that Kasser, is not advocating that we all live like Gandhi. "Making some money and having some possessions are necessary," he writes. "The trick is to keep materialistic aims in balance with intrinsic aims, and always to have healthier aims dominant. It is the same idea as keeping the relative percentage of calories derived from sweets and fats lower than those from grains, fruits, and vegetables. A little bit of chocolate cake (materialism) will not hurt you too much, as long as most of your calories come from fresh produce and whole grains (intrinsic values)."
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