The acquisition of material wealth is often equated with happiness in this country. This is true today, and it was true during the 1920's, the setting of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. That the majority of Americans believe that wealth and happiness are the same is a result of our market economy that encourages consumption and conditions us to think that we need material possessions to be happy. According to Andrew Bard Schmookler, "Wealth and human fulfillment have become equated in the predominant ideology of liberal society, even though the great spiritual teachers of humanity have all taught otherwise." (17)
What happened to Gatsby's generation? The 20's were an age of a consumption ethic that was needed to provide markets for the new commodities that streamed from the production lines (Cowley, 53). The same problem exists today ... our materialistic attitudes are a result of the free market economy in this country. Consumers are taught that they need to have all these things that the businesses are trying to sell.
It's true that this desire for things is what drives our economy. The free market has given us great blessings, but it has in some ways also put us on the wrong path -- the path to a selfish, unhappy society. Michael Lerner, who worked as a psychotherapist to middle-income Americans notes that
"The problem is that the deprivation of meaning is a social problem, rooted
in part in the dynamics of the competitive marketplace, in part in the
materialism and selfishness that receive social sanction....
... middle of paper ...
...sterlin, Richard A. "Does Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot?". Nations and Households in Economic Growth:
Essays in Honor of Moses Abramovitz. Eds. Paul A. David and Melvin W. Reder. New York: Academic Press, Inc. 1974 (89-125)
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1925.
Kasser, Tim, and Richard M. Ryan. "A Dark Side of the American Dream: Correlates of Financial Success as a Central Life Aspiration.
" Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 65.2 (1993): 410-13.
Lerner, Michael. "Gurus of Cynicism vs. the Politics of Meaning." Houston Chronicle 24 June 1993, 2 star ed.: B11. Montagu, Ashley. Touching.
2nd ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1978.
Schmookler, Andrew Bard. "The Insatiable Society: Materialistic Values and Human Needs." The Futurist July 1991: 17-23. J:ofsengclarklcarolyns.doc
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