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.