This week I came across an interesting article on ‘the new materialism’ in resurgence. It sums up some interesting ideas and verbalises something about the value of hand-crafted items now that I had a sense of but hadn’t been able to put into sentences.

I’m not sure the tag of ‘new’ helps, when much of what constitutes it seems to be older than the so called ‘old’ materialism, but labelling issues aside it’s well worth reading.

There’s a pamphlet on their website that lays it all out pretty clearly.

In a nutshell, they argue that capitalist mass consumerism (old materialism) is driven by the profit motive, and thus engineers desires and advertising to increase sales. These purchases are made in association with largely extrinsic values – such as status, fashion etc. As a consequence, the new things do not make us happy for more than a short moment and life still feels shallow and unsatisfying regardless of the amount of ‘stuff’ we accumulate.

By comparison, the new materialism still allows us a relationship with stuff, but works at reconstructing that relationship in more positive ways. It is largely based on intrinsic values, so that we can treasure an item for what it means to us. Rather than being urged to constantly consume, the model emphasises having less things, having deeper relationships with them, fixing things more and sharing things more, so that we also get the benefits of a more ecologically sustainable lifestyle and more meaningful social interaction.

The value of crafts comes through pretty clearly – at least when they explain it:

“Like an abusive relationship with the real world, materialism
has become synonymous with consumerism – wasteful,
debt-fuelled and ultimately unsatisfying. Yet, inescapably, we
are part of the material world. How, then, can we develop a
healthy connection to it? This pamphlet argues for a ‘New
Materialism,’ in which we grow a more deeply pleasurable,
and also respectful relationship with the world of ‘things’.
Not only do we think there is strong evidence to argue that
this will significantly enhance our well-being, it is also an
essential step forward if we are to thrive whilst living within
our environmental means. We believe the New Materialism
offers a better solution to key current economic challenges such
as the need to generate ample, good-quality jobs – and a way
of making daily goods and services available that escapes the
consumer debt-trap.”
“A short manifesto (less in more) for:
the New Materialism
Liking ‘stuff’ is okay, healthy even
– we can learn to
love and find pleasure in the material world
Wherever practical and possible
develop lasting
relationships with things
by having and making
nothing that is designed to last less than 10 years
Get to know things
– before you acquire something,
find out at least three things about it
Love stuff
– mend, maintain and re-use things until it
is no longer possible, then recycle them
Get active
– only acquire something new if you are
also learning a new, useful skill
– look at all your things, think about what your
friends might need or could benefit from, and share at
least one thing a week”
both quotes from the pamphlet.

2 thoughts on “Materialism, old, new and otherwise

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