Do we measure our success by what we own? That’s supposed to be one of the hallmarks of a consumer society, with material possessions giving us our status and identity. But if you ask people if they measure their success by their possessions, the vast majority of British people will say no.
That’s according to Ipsos Mori, who have asked the same question in a number of different countries. As it turns out, people are more likely to admit to being materialistic in China and India than they are are Britain.
Perhaps that’s because quality of life is improving in such tangible ways in those places that you can actually feel it as progress. ‘Last year I did not have a fridge, and now I do’. That’s progress, and it is measured by what we own. Here, on the other hand, most of us have everything we need already. Getting something new might be nice, but the increase in quality of life is negligible.
That’s one theory. Another might be that consumerism is so embedded in our society that it is now invisible to us. We are constantly judging others and ourselves by what we own, but we don’t realise we’re doing it.
I don’t know, but the graphs below have made me think differently about materialism.
Source: Understanding Society, Ipsos Mori