4 June 2012

The Desire for Useless Things

Joseph Wood Krutch, Human Nature and the Human Condition (New York: Random House, 1959), pp. 35-6:
[P]resent-day human nature does not spontaneously desire all the material things which our economic health demands that it should have. It may once have been necessary to restrain man's lust to own, to consume, and to waste; but this lust is no longer adequate to the needs of present-day industry. We cannot be trusted to buy enough things. In the public interest a vast co-ordinated effort must be made to sell them to us. Neither is it enough to satisfy mere "needs", even though it be recognized that such "needs" grow as they are fed. They still do not grow fast enough. They must be created; and it must also be recognized that many of them are not only created but are also in themselves "psychological". As the head of one large New York advertising agency jubilantly pointed out, a study revealed that "of some 500 classified wants, only 96 were necessary." But what, in plain language, are "created psychological needs" except the desire for useless things which people have been persuaded that they want?