Misery Creep And Selfish Capitalism

Maggie Maggie Maggie
Its pretty much a statement of fact that Britain as a culture has become more materialistic. To blame it all on Margaret Thatcher is a bit simplistic though she plays an important part in the ‘society’ (as Maggie would have disdainfully described it) both good and bad that we live in today.

Middle Class Values
The cultural desire was there by the end of the 70’s. You’ve only got to watch the 1977 play Abigail’s party to see that the lure and attainment of middle class values has been a dangling carrot that British culture has wilfully pursued. To some extent we’re all middle class or aspire to middle class values now even if we disagree about how we attain the accessories to class.
Selfish capitalistMisery Creep
I was interested to read a puff for Oliver James new book in which he tries to explain why, in Britain today, that rising materialism has , in his eyes has gone hand in hand with ‘misery-creep’ a rising level of cultural unhappiness.
James, a clinical psychologist known to Radio 4 listeners claims that in Britain we have ‘selfish capitalism’ which has directly seen a corresponding increase in the incidence of mental illness. Controversial stuff.

James claims that widespread anxiety and depression has been caused to a large extent by the unrealistic expectations of our materialistic and status ridden society which he sees as being based around a ‘selfish capitalism’ model.

23% Suffering Mental Illness
Around 23% of Brits are or have suffered some form of mental illness. Oliver James contrasts this with countries in mainland Europe like the Italians,French Germans, Belgians, Spanish and Dutch who he sees as being part of a non-selfish deployment of capitalism and where rates of mental illness stand at around 11% though he seems to fight shy of defining the differences between selfish and unselfish capitalism.

James says “It is not economic inequality between the rich and the working classes that causes mental illness, though that certainly still exists,” … “It is the combination of that inequality with an all-pervasive consumerist culture which constantly tells people ‘it could be you’ you could be a well-off winner too.”


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2 thoughts on “Misery Creep And Selfish Capitalism

  1. As a American, I am Glad to see another country suffer from the ills of greed and capitialism. Only 23% percent mental illness at this point, just wait until the Pharmaceutical companies see those low number. I am pretty sure they will make a concerted effort to get a better market share in the U.K.!

  2. James makes an interesting point whether or not his analysis of the reasons is correct. I often wonder why the British complain so much. The old cliché was that the British talk about nothing but the weather but these days, if they do talk about the weather, it is to complain about it and then to go on to complain about everything else.

    I have often wondered why Britons complain so much and why they frequently rubbish their own country when the French, for example, are always telling you how wonderful France is and how they love living there. Personally, I love living here but if I say so, people look at me as if I am barmy.

    I think that it is not the country but who is looking at it that counts: British people who go to live in France often end up as complaining as disillusioned as they were when living in Britain.

    Perhaps we British do have too high expectations. We certainly seem unsatisfied with what we have and envious of those who have more. But then we go on to complain about those who have more and to claim that they have it through crooked dealing and by “stealing” it from us. Nothing is our fault: our lack of success is because others are unfairly favoured over us.

    Does this attitude go with affluence, I wonder, or is it specifically British? Is it because of the materialism of our culture or because we have lost the consoling anaesthetic of religion? Is it because we live in a deeply divided society or because there no longer seem to be any worthy goals in life? Whatever its cause, it is a dreadful waste of energy and creates a depressing atmosphere.

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