Are We “Post-Material”?

Yes, I could have done better than my parents, but instead I chose to consume more leisure. Many young people I know—journalists, activists, developers, and designers—are making the same choice, even if they don’t realize it. They are choosing to live below their potential means in order to be happier. And while you see them “work” very hard and for long hours for stagnant or declining wages, they are in fact having a ball and obviously getting paid enough to do it.

How do we feel about this essay about how the current working generation won’t be as materially well off as our parents, but that’s because of intentional choices we make (and because technology has made it so that we need fewer things to be comfortable)? I see the point the author is trying to make, but I also think he has a bit of tunnel vision.

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21 Comments / Post A Comment

Lily Rowan (#70)

“Many young people I know—journalists, activists, developers, and designers—are making the same choice, even if they don’t realize it.”

I just don’t think there are as many people like this as these people think there are. And they are the people writing all the articles!

acid burn (#113)

I think the phrase “Yes, I could have done better than my parents” automatically puts the author in the minority.

I don’t know, apparently we’re all out buying homes now(/again?) so…trends are weird.

Also, when it comes to his particular case, I feel like there has always been a subset of people who get law degrees but then decide not to work 80 hour weeks and instead do government/non-profit/academia/whatever?

@Michelle LeBlanc@twitter Has law school not priced people out of that choice at this point?

nevertooyoung (#961)

@Amanda@twitter Delays when you can take the choice, but hourly rates are high enough that if you have the right clientele/specialty, once your debts are paid off, you can do pretty well.

limenotapple (#1,748)

I kind of read this as “People with hip careers who live in happening cities are making the same choice”. I work at a rural midwestern college, and I just don’t see this choice from a lot of people. I suppose I see it more when I commute back to the city, where I live…and I see people such as myself that choose to live in a small, old house instead of the insanely large, insanely pretty suburban houses people like my parents favored. But my parents also didn’t spend money on things like smartphones and macbook pro computers and steaming media and restaurant meals and cocktails and travel and internet access, etc.

nevertooyoung (#961)

It is certainly a real phenomena; I’m seeing it among a lot of my peers. How widespread it is… that’s another question. I suspect “not much”, because while some of it is the presence of the internet, a lot of being able to let go is really about being affluent enough to know that you can easily replace things when you need them.

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

I don’t really find myself persuaded by this argument. I think because of there are significant road blocks to material attainment a lot of millennials have been forced to find satisfaction elsewhere. Professional life isn’t offering the kind of meaningful achievement that people are looking for and there aren’t many opportunities to achieve financial stability so people offset that by finding personal satisfaction in their leisure time. That definitely demonstrates adaptability but I think it’s a bit of a reach to call it a lifestyle choice. No one is choosing not to be financially stable or successful.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@EvanDeSimone I like this commenter who wrote, “This sentiment reminds me of Aesop’s fable about the fox and the grapes that were out of reach. After trying all sorts of tricks without getting the grapes, the fox writes off the grapes as being “sour”. “Sour grapes” as the phenomenon is called is a coping mechanism for dealing with things we want but can’t have, like perhaps the lifestyles of our parents. When we can’t get that, then we decide we didn’t want it and resign ourselves to things we can achieve. If the materialist lifestyle was easier to achieve, I think we wouldn’t see so many people doing what they do now.”

The happinesses the essay writer compares seem too different to me to even draw conclusions.

JanieS (#1,826)

“Yeah Baby Boomers, you totally ruined everything for your children, and your children’s children, but it’s OK! We have iPhones!”

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

@JanieS Haha yes! but don’t forget that boomers also resent us for our iPhones

deepomega (#22)

People With Shitty Economic Situation Convince Selves They Don’t Want To Buy Things

aetataureate (#1,310)

@deepomega Yeah. Have you seen the surveys they do where teens say they’d choose smartphones over cars, though? That’s a thing I don’t understand.

EM (#1,012)

“Today, however, we are in a position to derive much of our happiness from pursuits internal to our minds. We do this by blogging, watching House of Cards on Netflix, listening to a symphony from iTunes, tweeting with friends and acquaintances, seeing their pictures on Facebook or Path, and learning and collaborating on Wikipedia.” I don’t get this point; how is this different from back in Ye Olden Times when people would, like, read a book or do needlepoint or fiddle with their ham radio or make mix tapes by recording their favourite songs of the radio? Those are also, arguably and equally vaguely, “pursuits internal to our minds.”

stonetongue (#3,580)

@Michelle I agree. It’s a caricature but ‘there is no such thing as progress’.

stonetongue (#3,580)

Reading this, I was strongly tempted to stop at the third paragraph when he writes, “Today, however, we are in a position to derive much of our happiness from pursuits internal to our minds,” and then goes on to discuss Facebook, Netflix, and Wikipedia.

EM (#1,012)

@stonetongue Also who derives pleasure from seeing that someone updated their Facebook photo?

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Michelle Depends how naked they are? Just kidding.

WhyHelloThere (#1,398)

The thing is, people said exactly the same thing about Gen Xers with our McJobs and our zines. I think it’s partly a stage of life thing. A lot of people feel like this when they’re first starting out. Most Millennials will, in fact, be ok career-wise, and they’ll probably start feeling a little less “post-material” when they’re more focused on retirement and/or helping their kids pay for college.

This article just put me through a whirlwind of emotions. Mild irritation, then indignant rage, then a deep sense of gloom, and then somehow it all ended in insane, maniacal laughter that continued off and on for 15 minutes.

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