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In philosophical terms materialism refers to a theoretical system in which matter is perceived as the representation of reality contrary to beliefs expressed by idealism and spiritualism (Dittmar & Halliwell, 2008). Translating this into the present perspective, it basically refers to the human obsession with physical entities like money, cars, houses or clothes.
Materialism is a concept that has been nurtured through decades by different sociologists. Karl Max is taken as the pioneer of concept of economic materialism by developing key concepts such as historical materialism, class differences, dialectical materialism and alienation (Scott, 2007).Louis Althusser made attempts to develop a new front of materialism known as non-reductionist materialism (Scott, 2007). Michel Foucault contributed to the sociological aspects of materialism by focusing on totalizing effects historical materialism has on class exploitation (Scott, 2007). As a result, he elementally developed the question of class with regard to materialism.
Pierre Bourdieu is acclaimed for providing a concise analysis of epistemological principles by defining the fundamental subject/object classifications affecting the interpretation of materialism versus idealism (Scott, 2007). Other key contributors include Gilles Delauze, Etienne Balibar and Antonio Negri.
Evolution of materialism from epistemology of metaphysics
19th Century Materialism
Materialism has evolved significantly from the concept of epistemology, which largely focuses on the foundations of knowledge and determinism. In the mid 1840s Karl Max successfully linked economic production to the government’s history, which was expressed in the communist manifesto (Roberts, 2001). This essentially led to the definition of a patriarchal system, and the classification of society into different sections from savagery, barbarism, gens, feudal and capitalism (Roberts, 2001).
20th Century Materialism
The 1920s and 1930s marked the entrance of new age socialists. Development of the critical theory by Max Horkheimer, Erich Fromm, Theodor Adorno, and Herbert Marcus, consequently changing Karl Marx’s concept of economic determinism and adoption of dialectical materialism (Sociological Guide, 2010). The onset of 1940s to 1990s featured new mindsets. Non- reductionist materialism was introduced by Louis Althusser (Scott, 2007); Michel Foucault affirms Karl Marx’s class stratification brought about by historical materialism; Pierre Bourdieu’s view of materialism in terms of subject/object classifications (Scott, 2007).
Real life Application of materialism
Materialism has been applied in different perspectives in the modern world. Material objects are increasingly being used as elements of status display, personal judgment of success through wealth and possessions, and the manifestation of happiness as a psychological benefit attributed to possessions (Dittmar & Halliwell, 2008). As a result, most media applications such as advertisement, marketing, and public relations accrue from the premises of materialism. For example, consider an advertisement of video games focused on those with an economic advantage.
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