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Volume XLIV – Number 1

Elinor Hortle

Abstract: This essay argues that although there is a small percentage of Australians who have moved toward post materialism, the majority remains distinctly materialist. Materialism is an economic theory that can be defined as an excessive desire, by individuals, to acquire and consume material goods. It is a value-system that relates to the desire for fulfillment that is provided by material things. Post-materialism, a theory developed by Ronald Inglehart in the 1970s, can be described as the transformation of individual values away from material, physical, and economic principles and toward personal values of autonomy and self-expression. Inglehart argues that advanced democracies are increasingly rejecting materialism and embracing post-materialism (Inglehart 1971). This paper proceeds by examining Inglehart’s original claim with regard to Australia, as well as other indicators of the rejection of materialism such as the level of entrepreneurial activity, the level of political trust and the strength of the green movement. It is shown that the increasing level of entrepreneurial activity indicates that the majority of Australians still strive for economic gain. Furthermore, while the Greens enjoy some public support, the more materialistic parties remain dominant. Additionally, the low levels of political trust, which is often associated with post-materialism, show a higher correlation to the electoral cycle than to a generational change across society as a whole. Contrary to Inglehart’s assertion that Australia is one of the countries that prove his theory, evidence suggests that post-materialist values have only gained a small foothold in this materialist country.

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