Dowd Lecture, Stark Interpretation of Capitalism, American Values
By Karabo Mosola, '18
Tim Kasser, professor of psychology at Knox University, came to Skidmore last week for the annual Charles N. Dowd Lecture. His talk, titled Capitalism, Values, ad Quality of Life: An Empirical, Psychological Approach ambitiously set out to break down what it means to live in a capitalist society. He dove right into his content, and it was not a positive tale.
Kasser explained that in a capitalist system people are taught from early stages of life to value and adopt hierarchal, competitive, and materialistic behaviors. He then drew the connection between these values, which are necessary within society for capitalism to survive, and our wellbeing as a nation. Kasser explicitly stated that his research showed that the more people cared about hierarchy, and the more people valued materialist ideals, the less likely they were to be able to feel satisfied with their lives, and the less empathetic they were to the people around them. Not surprisingly, the negative impact of these values has seeped into our nation; the United States was one of the countries that ranked the highest in terms of valuing hierarchy and materialism.
These startling findings are pertinent to Skidmore’s campus. He wanted to spark a question: how can we, as people who ideally strive to be considerate and egalitarian, wish to address the negative effects of capitalism?
His research became centered on this question to find conclusions regarding the possibility of reversing the effects of a hierarchal society within their own lives. The results of Kasser's research emphasized that if people are mindful of the effects of capitalist culture and advertisements, and reflect on intrinsic values, like the importance of confidence and harmony, one is capable of combating the negative aspects of the overwhelmingly capitalistic reality that we currently live in.