Continuing with my reading and reflecting on J.B. MacKinnon’s The Day the World Stopped Shopping, this morning’s excerpt has to do with the relationship between materialism and wellbeing.
“A fundamental characteristic of consumer culture is that it muddies and befogs the line at which wealth ceases to improve wellbeing and begins to detract from it.”
He’s quick to mention that it’s not an exact science but more of a broad pattern in society; however, the consensus seems to be that once our essential needs are met, income and wellbeing stop rising together and begin to have a negative overall effect. Earlier in the book he mentions that highly developed nations rank lower on the Happy Planet Index because of their high rates of consumption.
I’ve also read in other places (notably Post-Growth by Tim Jackson) that visible and large gaps of inequality play a significant role in society’s wellbeing. So even when the overall wealth of a society is up, noticeable disparity will make everyone more miserable. This relates to the psychological desire to live around people within the same income bracket; you won’t feel as bad.