It was reported in 1995 that one in five Britons (20%) are rejecting materialism and "conspicuous consumption" in favour of personal fulfilment and quality of life. "Materialists" numbered 15% of the population. In 1970, the proportion of "post materialists" in Britain was only one in twenty. MORI, the agency who conducted the research as part of its World Values Survey, said that the change is part of a deep-seated global shift in values which will act as a brake on the world economy. International studies have correspondingly identified: a decline in confidence in large institutions, decreased dependence on the state, a preference for small, flexible, grassroots organizations and a tendency for social change to be initiated by people rather than institutions -- "bottom-up", not "top-down".
Whether or not growth is sustainable, there is little reason to think that once people attain a decent standard of living, continued growth is desirable. It in is no longer possible for most people to believe that economic progress will "solve all the problems of mankind, spiritual as well as material." As long as the debate over sustainability is framed in terms of the physical limits to growth rather than the moral purpose of it, mainstream economic theory will have the better of the argument. If the debate were framed in moral or social terms, the result might well be otherwise.
Post-materialism is dampening the prospects for a consumption-led economic revival. Economic conditions will deteriorate. Dissatisfaction with the political [status quo] will increase in a new culture of protest.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
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