The new American normal: pursuing an enriched social life rather than spending

Sociologist Amitai Etzoni argues that Americans have reached a point where from this point on they may choose to enhance their social lives rather than consume:

The Great Recession provides a golden opportunity to test Maslow’s prescription. As most everybody has read by now, we lived beyond our means for decades, and we borrowed about all we could from overseas and indebted our children. It’s payback time.

There is no way on earth Americans over the next decade will continue to experience the kind of increases in income, and hence standards of living, we have seen since World War II. The question is if they will respond in anger — or benefit, by dedicating themselves, once their basic needs are sated, to spending more time with each other, their children, in social activities and cultural pursuits.

Polls suggest that large numbers are ready.

As Etzioni notes at the end of this piece, the real test of these opinions will come once the economy recovers. If people have more income and disposable income, will they return to their consumerist ways?

But perhaps these attitudes will lead to something different: a society that no longer desires or tries to attain explosive growth periods. Perhaps the true non-consumerist society will be content with slow but consistent growth.

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