Cover image for The high price of materialism
The high price of materialism
Kasser, Tim.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xvi, 149 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
"A Bradford book."
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BF698.35.A36 K37 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BF698.35.A36 K37 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In this volume, 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.

Author Notes

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

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

You've always known that money can't buy happiness, but do you have the data to prove it? Kasser, a psychology professor at Knox College, certainly does. Drawing on an impressive range of statistical studies, including ones that use his own "Aspiration Index," Kasser argues that a materialistic orientation toward the world contributes to low self-esteem, depression, antisocial behavior and even a greater tendency to get "headaches, backaches, sore muscles, and sore throats." In numerous studies, Kasser shows, people who were paid for completing a task that they normally found pleasurable (e.g., solving puzzles) reported the activity to be less fun than those who did the task without financial compensation. While at first the book seems to retrace the steps of Juliet B. Schor's The Overspent American and other recent titles that analyze why many Americans feel driven and unhappy despite success, Kasser goes beyond this, showing how materialistic values shape an individual's orientation toward friends, family, work, death and "internal satisfactions." Of great interest are the studies demonstrating that children of divorce and people with "less nurturing" mothers are more likely to hold strong materialistic values (though some readers may protest that children of divorce simply feel more economically vulnerable than their peers). Drawing on sources as diverse as dream analysis and game theory, Kasser powerfully argues that when we as individuals or as a nation feel more vulnerable, we exhibit more sharply defined materialistic tendencies a theme particularly resonant in this era of terrorist threats, personal debts and corporate scandals. Illus. (Sept.) Forecast: Despite its academic leanings and potentially intimidating charts and tables, Kasser's book will attract the large (and largely affluent) Real Simple audience that seeks to pare down and streamline. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

This is a powerful book with a deep message. Kasser (Knox College) offers empirical documentation of what many religions have been saying for centuries: a meaningful life comes from giving, not getting. The author's important research demonstrates the vicious and depressing cycle that is created by wanting, getting, and wanting more. The paradox is hard to overcome: the more one has, the less satisfied one feels, which in turn creates the need for more. The advertising industry is busy creating more and more "needs"; people are spending more and not surprisingly becoming more depressed and less generous and community minded. The author makes some excellent suggestions for change: people should look at what is scaring them so they do not seek the answer in materialism; people should change activities--cancel subscriptions to gossip magazines and put the television in the closet--and people should work to ensure the security of everyone--e.g., feed the hungry. Excellent notes, references, and index. All collections; all levels. R. Kabatznick CUNY Queens College

Table of Contents

Richard M. Ryan
Forewordp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
1 Mixed Messagesp. 1
2 Personal Well-Beingp. 5
3 Psychological Needsp. 23
4 Insecurityp. 29
5 Fragile Self-Worthp. 43
6 Poor Relationshipsp. 61
7 The Chains of Materialismp. 73
8 Family, Community, and the Earthp. 87
9 Making Changep. 97
Epiloguep. 117
Notesp. 119
Referencesp. 129
Indexp. 143