The post-materialist generation

Once you give up on the idea of making money or owning a house with a huge lawn and embrace the notion that even paying off your student debt may be a Pollyanaish dream, what’s left? Doing something way more fun, obviously.

Economists have spotted that the post-millennial generation are buying and consuming less physical stuff than Boomers and Gen-Xers did in their own twenties and thirties. It’s due to financial necessity, environmental conscience, and post-materialist tastes, but it’s causing fears for the future of the economy.

But as this guy says, who cares?

The economy is a human-made thing designed for our convenience. It serves us, we don’t serve it. It’s not some dark god called Economor to whom we must make sacrificial offerings or fear its wrath: it’s just a system of boring gold-based policies we made a couple of hundred years ago (and perverted beyond recognition some ten years ago), which doesn’t even make a lot of sense anymore. And if we don’t start prioritising our natural environment as a concern, the planet won’t be able to sustain any life – human or economic.

What the conservative sees as bad times, I can’t help seeing as an exciting period in which we might actually – belatedly – stop prioritising the consumer economy and got on with something else.

Trouble is, I’m not sure we have become a post-materialist society yet. I’m a member of that post-millennial generation (and was way ahead of the curve when it came to getting rid of all my stuff and becoming a cloudgeist) and most of my peers are just as thick-headed and stuff-hungry as anyone from my parents’ generation.

Judging by popular topics in the media, it does feel like we’re heading into a post-materialist consumer period in which digital properties, educational achievement, and physical prowess are more important status symbols than the old materialist measures of success. I just worry that it’s illusory.

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

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