Consumerism Gone Wild and the Disparities of Wealth

Many historians trace the rise of consumerism as a way of life to 19th-century changes in capitalist theory. One example is Thorstein Veblen’s “Conspicuous Consumption” argument, which suggests that wealth can create addictions to material goods and pleasurable experiences in ways that erode the common good.

Clearly we are in an age of wasteful consumption among the wealthy, and increasing hopelessness among the poor. The gap is increasing, and there seem to be few solutions in sight. What personal, community, and governmental practices might bring some relief to this crisis, and how do religious traditions have a role to play? Has consumerism become a religion?

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