Friday, October 16, 2009


“With an immense zest. . .they begin shopping. . .they plunge into it as one plunges into a career; as a class they talk, think and dream possessions.” This was quote from H.G. Wells in 1909 describing the new middle class, known as the ‘Bourgeoisie.’ Hobsbawm goes on to say that it wasn’t until the late 19th century that this class began to be physically comfortable, decorated with solid objects, possessing a copious amounts of textile goods, and partaking in the consumption of fine cuisines. Hobbs sites another quote by William James to describe this new kind of society. It states, “In its widest possible sense. . .a man’s Self is the sum-total of what he can call his, not only his body and his psychic powers, but his clothes and his house, his wife and children, his ancestors and friends, his reputation and works, his lands and horses and yacht and bank account.” This quote helps to illustrate that this class was primarily concerned with material possessions. Although these passages were written to describe the people of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, I found the descriptions to fit modern day society very well. Today, people are very concerned with their material possessions and often go to great lengths to secure these, even when they don’t have the means to do so. People obtain and max out multiple credit cards, mortgage their homes, and get loans to pay for what they can’t on their own. This over-reliance on credit has left many people in massive debt, bankrupt, and is even causing some to lose their homes. More specifically, it has landed America in what is now referred to as the mortgage and credit crisis. Do you think it was these early standards established in the late 19th century that created peoples obsession with material goods and caused many to get in too deep, or do you believe America’s current obsession with material goods was brought on by some other ideals and standards that deserve their own categorization?


  1. Please sign your posts so I can identify the author.

  2. I find your question to be quite interesting. I am not one way or another about where American obsession for material goods was rooted, but I would have to venture that it started a long time prior to the 19th century. I say this because of what we saw in the other Abu-Lughod's book and what we know about world history. European hegemony was founded on the principles of searching for treasures and glory, obtaining more wealth and splendor than the other world powers. I think that this mentality has been a constant throughout western history and is the true root of America's current obsession.