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10-08-2015, 23:39


Some theorists argue that the party most responsible for the hedonism and materialism of contemporary life is the capitalist system, which has raised narcissism and conspicuous consumerism to the height of the modern consciousness. It is no doubt true that by promoting material consumption as perhaps the supreme good, modern capitalism has encouraged the acquisitive side of human nature and undermined the traditional virtues of frugality and self-denial and the life of the spirit. As Karl Marx perceptively noted more than a century ago, under capitalism money is “the universal self-constituted value of all things. It has therefore robbed the whole world, human as well as natural, of its own values.” 3 Perhaps, however, it is more accurate to state that capitalism simply recognizes the acquisitive side of human nature and sets out to make a profit from it. Recent events around the world suggest that efforts to suppress the acquisitive instinct are ultimately doomed to fail, no matter how stringently they are applied. It is thus left to individual human beings, families, and communities to decide how to supplement material aspirations with the higher values traditionally associated with the human experience. Perhaps it is worth observing that more than once, capitalism has demonstrated the ability to rectify its shortcomings when they threaten the survival of the system. It remains to be seen whether it can successfully deal with the corrosive effects of contemporary materialism on the traditional spiritual longings of humankind.