A Discussion On Postmaterialism At A Modern

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A Discussion On Postmaterialism At A Modern Day Campus Essay, Research Paper The concept of postmaterialism was first proposed by Ronald Inglehart in the ‘Silent Revolution’ (1977). In this essay, I will firstly analyse what materialism then postmaterialism are. I shall then discuss some of the criticisms of the theory. I will then analyse to what extent Essex University students are postmaterialist using examples of student societies and then explain why I feel that they are more materialist and offer some explanations of why this is so. In order to fully understand what postmaterialism is, it seems necessary to firstly explain what is meant by materialism. Essentially, this is an explanation of social processes by referring to physical or material entities. It focuses

on economics and material conditions of life in explaining how people think and act. Postmaterialism, defined by Inglehart as “a space where diverse social and intellectual tendencies converge and clash”; is the idea that society has moved on from this position and is no longer so concerned about material or physical conditions and place greater emphasis on (for example) job satisfaction, ecological issues, human and animal rights – the quality of life. Materialism therefore deals with the conditions of life, and postmaterialism – the quality of life. Postmaterialism rests on two hypotheses; the first one is the scarcity hypothesis, “one places greater subjective value on those things that are in relatively short supply.” Linked to this, is the idea that Individual

needs can be put into a rank order; and people become concerned with a need once they perceive that more important ones have been satisfied. The second hypothesis is the socialisation hypothesis, “ones basic values reflect the conditions that prevailed during ones’ preadult years.” Peoples attitudes are “relatively deep-rooted, and early instilled as part of ones’ outlook of life.” Whatever was occurring during the time of life identified by Inglehart as ‘preadult’ affects an individuals outlook, ideas, and values in later years. This notion, he terms ‘formative security’ and he says the more secure an individual is, the less likely they are to emphasise materialist goals and be more postmaterialist as a result. Added to the two hypotheses is the belief that a

generation will have a collective conscience, faced with similar situations a generation will have a similar degree of formative security. Value change is therefore a generational process, with each generation having a distinct set of priorities to its predecessor. It also means that a generations views can be explained by events which could have occurred during the formative period – up to sixty or more years previous to the time analysed. Inglehart argues that both materialist and postmaterialist ideas manifest themselves in an individual, however, materialist needs such as personal security and wealth can take priority and mask the postmaterial beliefs. Once the materialist goals have been fulfilled, postmaterialist goals become dominant. How soon materialist aims are

achieved depends on the individuals experience of ‘formative security’ and to what degree they are needed before postmaterialist aims can be sought. What Inglehart is essentially arguing is that priorities are being reordered due to changes in societies wealth, they are by no means new priorities. The motivators of change to postmaterialism are security and economic development. Societies which have a high level of wealth and especially those who are the richest in a society are more likely to hold postmaterialist views. “The publics of relatively rich societies” experience extensive welfare provision, high levels of education and intellectually stimulating occupations; these in turn form subjective notions about security and priorities about materialism/postmaterialism.