George Monbiot

Materialism: A System That Eats Us from the Inside out


1.      Happiness, self-esteem, and possessions

         a.      “Owning more doesn't bring happiness”

         b.      “The material pursuit of self-esteem reduces self-esteem”

         c.      Relation between happiness and self esteem?

2.      Rich Kids of Instagram: 4 Rolex watches Helicopter kid

3.      Do you have “revulsion towards crude displays of opulence?” (Monbiot) or do you think “Gosh, aren’t they lucky: I wish I were like them?”

         a.      Aimed at inciting envy

         b.      Reek of desperation

         c.      People dwarfed and dehumanized by their possessions, as if ownership has gone in reverse

                   i.       “Everything you own, owns you”

4.      Materialism definition = a value system that is preoccupied with possessions and the social image they project

         a.      Involves

                   i.       Using possessions as a yardstick of success

                   ii.      Seeking happiness through acquisition

5.      Materialism

         a.      Afflicts both right and poor

         b.       Is both socially and self-destructive

         c.      Associated with anxiety, depression, broken relationships, unhappiness, and mental disorders

         d.      Correlated with lack of empathy, engagement with others, and self-esteem

         e.      Perhaps even evidence of causal relationship between materialism and these problems

                   i.       As people become more materialist, well-being (good relationships, autonomy, sense of purpose and rest) diminishes; as become less materialistic, it rises

         f.       Fosters social isolation and loneliness

                   i.       Social isolation in turn fosters more materialism

                   ii.      People cut off from others attach themselves to possessions and this crowds out social relationships.

6.      Advertising’s effects

         a.      One experiment showed that those repeatedly exposed to images of luxury goods and who were treated as consumers rather than citizens (as advertising does all the time)

         b.      Experienced increase in material desires, anxiety and depression

         c.      Less inclined to join in demanding social activities and had reduced sense of social responsibility

         d.      Became more competitive and selfish


7.      Materialism forces us into comparisons with possessions of others

         a.      No end to it

         b.      If you 4 Rolexes while another has 5, you are one Rolex short of contentment


8.      A general social afflictions due to government policy, corporate strategy, collapse of communities and civic life

9.      A mistake to allow ourselves to believe that having more money and more stuff enhances our well being

10.    Perpetual growth economy is involved in same illusion

Questions on Monbiot on Materialism


1.      What are the relationships between happiness and self-esteem? What is happiness? What is self-esteem?

2.      Explain the idea of “ownership gone in reverse.”

3.      Define materialism.

4.      According to Monbiot, does materialism affect rich people or poor people?

5.      What are some of the problems materialism is associated with? Does materialism cause these problems or is it merely associated with them?

6.      What are some effects of constantly being shown luxury goods? Is this a valid critique of advertising?

7.      What is the difference between being a consumer and a citizen?

8.      Is there a connection between a “perpetual growth economy” and materialism and its problems?