Hasta la victoria siempre

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Negativele efecte psihologice ale capitalismului corporatist

Trei psihologi de calibru: Tim Kasser, Allen Kanner si Richard Ryan, sustinuti de doctorul in economie Steve Cohn, au publicat in Psychological Inquiry, 2007, vol. 18, nr. 1, un articol intitulat "Some Costs of American Corporate Capitalism: A Psychological Exploration of Value and Goal Conflicts". Din analiza prestigiosilor cercetatori reiesa ca sistemul capitalisto-corporatist american are efecte dintre cele mai adverse asupra sanatatii mentale a indivizilor si societatilor. sa incepem cu caracterizarea capitalismului-corporatist american, abreviat de autori cu ACC:

"Valorile" promovate de capitalismul-corporatist american
"What we hope comes into relief from our brief description is that ACC carries with it certain practices and beliefs that foster the pursuit of self-interest, competition, economic growth, and high levels of consumption. As such, ACC is more than just money and goods—it is a system of beliefs, social relationships, and institutions that encourage, regulate, and direct human motivations and values (just as religion, political systems, and other features of societies do). As we have mentioned, for ACC to take hold successfully in a culture, it must engage people in competitive institutions, entice them with an ever-new panoply of desirable goods, and expose them to practices and ideologies that lead them to internalize values for self-interest, competition, and economic advancement. When people adopt these attitudes and values, ACC becomes further anchored within the culture, and increasingly determines the beliefs and concerns people embrace, reject, or ignore, and the institutions that they will support or oppose. In short, like any social system, ACC fosters ideological values and institutional practices that further fuel its goals and suppresses other values
and practices at odds with its aims."

Asadar, unul din scopurile ACC este de a imprima mentalitatea sa egoista, competitiva si lacoma, consumerista in randul populatiei, pentru a se ancora in cultura populara si mentalitatea oamenilor, asigurandu-se astfel acceptarea in randul populatiei. Lucru pe care il practica prin intermediul advertisingului si care se pare ca da si rezultatele scontate:

"Several lines of evidence show that when people are exposed to the socializing institutions of ACC’s ideology, they do indeed take on or internalize its beliefs and values. For example, ingestion of contemporary media, with its many messages glorifying consumption and wealth, is associated with greater concern for financial success and a stronger consumer orientation (Rahtz, Sirgy and Meadow, 1988, 1989; Kasser and Ryan, 2001; Schor, 2004). When parents (i.e., the previous generation living under ACC) hold strong financial success values, their children do as well (Kasser, Ryan, Zax, and Sameroff, 1995). (...)
Yet such values and beliefs are also notable in the general population: Approximately 70% of contemporary US late adolescents believe that financial success is a “very important” or “essential” aim in life (Myers, 2000) and a similar percentage believe that Americans are basically self-interested and care little about those in need (Wuthnow, 1995)."

Mai departe, autorii explica modurile in care ideile si trasaturile promovate de ACC submineaza realele valori sociale, dovedite pozitive pentru fericirea individuala si colectiva.

Cum corporatismul submineaza valorile autentice
Erodarea comunitatilor
"The values of competitive achievement and power and the goal of financial success encouraged by ACC oppose universalism values for “Understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature,” (S. Schwartz, 1992, 1996) and community feeling aspirations to “improve the world through activism or generativity,” (Grouzet et al., 2005). S. Schwartz (1992, p. 15) described the conflict between these sets of aims well when he wrote “acceptance of others as equals and concern for their welfare interferes with the pursuit of one’s own relative success and dominance over others.” Many thinkers in the social sciences have commented on this tension between the self-interested values of ACC and the aim of being a good community, national, and global citizen. For example, the political scientist Inglehart (1977) has noted how materialistic
values oppose broader “post-materialistic” cares for the broader world. In sociology, Putnam (2000) suggested that involvement in community activities has dropped as the individualistic consumer mentality has spread in the United States. Political economist Hirsch (1976) described how ACC erodes the “social capital” (i.e., social connections and solidarity) on which the system depends for efficient market exchanges."

Insa grija fata de comunitate este o conditie importanta a maturizarii si bunastarii psihice ale oamenilor:

"For example, psychodynamically inspired psychologists typically hold that healthy development involves movement from a strong concern for one’s own self-interest towards social interest (Adler, 1956) or generativity and care for the world (Erikson, 1959/1980); see also McAdams, de St. Aubin, and Logan (1993) and Loevinger (1976). Cognitive theories of moral development,whether formen (Kohlberg, 1969) or women (Gilligan, 1982), also argue (and empirically demonstrate) that lower stages are typified by self-interested motivations whereas higher stages involve a concern for other people’s feelings and the welfare of society as a whole. Maslow’s (1954) humanistic theory similarly suggests that people move from self-interested, deficiency needs to higher-level self-actualization needs that incorporate issues like helping the world and seeking knowledge and beauty (i.e., universalism values). (...)
Thus, each of these theories suggests that healthy functioning and higher development involve a move away from the self-interested, competitive values, and goals encouraged by ACC and towards the community feeling goals and universalism values that more deeply connect individuals with the broader world."

Distrugerea mediului inconjurator
Persoanele influentate de individualismul, lacomia si consumerismul promovat de corporatism, tind sa fie si mai putin interesati de conservarea ecosistemului:

"In addition to undermining the care with which people treat other humans in the broader world, ACC’s values and goals also affect how people treat the environment and other species. Although rising world populations clearly play a role in ecological degradation, the effect of ACC’s enormous need for the natural resources required to feed production and consumption cannot be ignored. For example, many habitats for animal and plant species have been lost or drastically diminished due to economic expansion and activity;
several ecological economists claim that the annual extinction rate has reached at least 5,000 species per year, a rate about 10,000 times the pre-human species extinction rate (Costanza, Cumberland, Daly, Goodland, and Norgaard, 1997). And the increasing greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, factories, and other economic activities encouraged by ACC have led many scientists to believe that significant disturbances
to global weather will occur in the coming decades that could further disrupt the lives of many species, including our own (Athanasiou, 1996). Although some nations have agreed to lower their emission levels to help
reduce this danger, the government of the United States has, as of this writing refused to participate in the prmary international treaty constraining such emissions, claiming itwould hurt the economy toomuch (Moseley and Bendavid, 2001). The US government’s decision brings into stark relief howthe imperative for economic growth under ACC can conflict with concerns for the broader world of other species and future generations.
The psychological literature provides parallel evidence that persons who embrace ACC’s values are less concerned with the Earth’s ecological health. People espousing more materialistic concerns express less love of the natural world (Saunders and Munro, 1999) and engage in fewer behaviors that benefit the environment (Richins and Dawson, 1992; Brown and Kasser, 2005;Kasser, 2005). Further, materialistic people report more greed and use more resources in social dilemma games, such as the well-known “tragedy of the commons” problem (Kasser and Sheldon, 2000; Sheldon and McGregor, 2000)."

Degradarea relatiilor personale prin munca in exces
Ca si cum erodarea comunitatilor si a mediului incinjurator nu ar fi fost suficiente, mentalitatea imprimata de corporatism are efecte nocive si fata de viata de cuplu.

"Problems with both the quantity and quality of close relationships can happen under ACC. Regarding quantity, the increasingwork hours of the last fewdecades in the US (Hochschild, 1997; Schor, 2003; Mishel et al., 2005) have had the effect of leaving less time available for the cultivation of relationships. Although part of increasing work hours may be due to citizens’ desire to work more, Hochschild’s (1997) study of one major US corporation showed that many of its institutional time policies made it quite difficult for workers to meet their basic family responsibilities; mandatory overtime in some work positions leads to similar problems (Golden, 2003). Long work hours in the pursuit of wealth and economic growth also leave little energy at the end of the day for interactions with spouses and children, not to mention friends. Lane (2000) has even suggested that, as Americans have pursued the aims of materialism and wealth, they have at the same time experienced “a kind of famine of warm interpersonal relations, of easy-to-reach neighbors, of encircling, inclusive memberships, and of solid family life” (...) Both empirical and cultural evidence support the idea that the values of ACC may create poorer interpersonal relationships. For example, Kasser and Ryan (2001) reported that individuals more focused on extrinsic goals for financial success, image, and popularity reported shorter, more conflictual relationships with their friends and lovers."

Scaderea stimei de sine
Prin imprimarea mentalitatii conform careia acumularea de bani si faima ar fi reteta succesului, oamenii care nu reusesc aceste "performante", adica majoritatea, dezvolta complexe nejustificate de inferioritate.

"ACC promotes particular states (wealth) or individuals (the wealthy) as worthy ideals to which people living under the system should compare themselves. As we know from the literature on discrepancies and social comparison, comparisons between one’s present situation and an unmet goal or someone of higher status have the dual effects of leading individuals to: a) feel unhappy and less worthy; and b) become increasingly motivated to engage in activities that help them reduce these unpleasant feelings (Carver and Scheier, 1981; Higgins, 1987; Suls andWills, 1991). This second outcome means that citizens will be more likely to engage in activities such as working long hours, going shopping, investing their money in the stock market, etc., in order to help them to reach these “ideals.” As such, they participate more in the ideologies and institutions of ACC, and thus help maintain the system. A psychologically costly element of this dynamic, however, is that these comparison processes rely on creating feelings of insecurity and unhappiness in individuals by increasing their awareness of discrepancies between their present state and the ideals defined by ACC (Richins, 1995). Research shows that exposure to such idealized messages about financial success in advertisements can in fact negatively influence people’s self-evaluations (Gulas and McKeage, 2000). Indeed, many marketers knowingly exploit such discrepancies."

Capitalismul creste productivitatea, dar cine beneficiaza?
Am vazut ca mentalitatea si apucaturile promovate de corporatism sunt daunatoare in numeroase feluri, insa totusi capitalismul are avantajul de a spori productivitatea economica, lucru reliefat si de autori. Asadar, nu se poate spune ca el duce la o bunastare macar materiala, daca nu si psihica? Nu e el capabil de a-i ridica pe multi din saracie si astfel sa-i faca mai fericiti? Nu, nu se poate, deoarece roadele acestei productivitati sporite ajung in mainile unei minoritati, deja imbogatite peste masura.

"Although ACC clearly is successful in generating great wealth, the evidence described above shows that the system does not ensure an equitable distribution of this wealth. (...) 2. Perhaps the most noteworthy set of facts supporting this claim is the increasing financial inequality within corporations, within the United States, and across the world that reflects the triumph of self-interested profit over concern for equality in the community. Within corporations, for example, the income of chief executive officers (CEOs) increased from about 26 times that of average hourly workers in 1965 to 185 times in 2003 (Mishel, Bernstein, and Allegretto, 2005). Within the United States, the level of income and wealth inequality declined from the late 1920s until the early 1970s, but since then, inequality has increased dramatically (Harrison andBluestone, 1988, p.7;Wolff, 1996, p. 28). For example, in the period of US economic expansion between 1980 and 2000, 97%of the increased wealth was garnered by those in the top 20% of incomes, leading America today to become the most unequal society in the industrialized West in terms of wealth distribution (Hertz, 2001). Data concerning financial inequalities within the world are rather complicated, but many indicators suggest that the gap between the very rich and the very poor has widened in recent years. For example, the per capita income of the 20 richest countries leaped from 18 times the level of the 20 poorest countries in 1960 to 37 times their level in 1995 (World Watch Institute, 2003). Pollin (2003, p. 137) also cites a May 2000 InternationalMonetary Fund report which concluded, “the relative gap between the richest and poorest countries has continued to widen” and himself concludes that “when one separates out the Chinese experience, it becomes unambiguous that inequality has been growing over the neoliberal era” (p. 134), i.e., the time of expanding economic globalization. Stiglitz (2002), a Nobel prize winning economist and former chief economist at the World Bank, also has discussed the redistribution of wealth upwards under globalization, noting that the net effect of globalization “all too often has been to benefit the few at the expense of the many, the well-off at the expense of the poor” (p. 20) and concluding that “for millions of people, globalization has not worked."

Downshiftingul ca metoda de lupta anti-corporatista
Cei patru autori puncteaza corect faptul ca sistemul corporatist are nevoie de implementarea mentalitatii materialiste in randul celor multi pentru a spori productivitatea, consumul, vanzarile si, in final, profiturile acelorasi capitalisti. De unde deducem ca renuntarea la gandirea materialista loveste in interesele acestui sistem.

"As we have described above, the success of ACC requires those living under it to “buy into” its ideology. Thus, ACC needs individuals to believe that their relative worth is reflected in their accumulation of wealth and capacity to consume, as such beliefs increase the likelihood that people will work hard to earn money which they will then spend on goods and services that in turn create a profit for corporations, a tax base for governments, and wages for citizens."

Articolul din care am citat, poate si trebuie citit in intregime, pentru a afla si alte moduri in care capitalismul, cladit pe ideea de profit privat, afecteaza vietile oamenilor:

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Neajunsurile capitalismului si downshiftingul ca mod de a-l combate

Dr. Brian Martin

Brian Martin este profesor asociat la Universitatea din Wollongong, Australia, unde preda in aria stiintei, tehnologiei si studiilor sociale. Aria sa de specializare este analiza dinamicii puterii in societate si in special a strategiilor de combatere a represiunii si exploatarii.
In cartea sa "Nonviolence versus Capitalism" (London: War Resisters' International, 2001), Martin evidentiaza mai intai problemele pe care le ridica sistemul capitalist, apoi avantajele acestuia, dupa care vorbeste, printre altele, de downshifting sau simplitatea voluntara ca mod de a combate capitalismul.
Sa le luam pe rand:

Pentru a intelege critica lui Martin a capitalismului, sa-l vedem cum defineste acest sistem.

Definitia capitalismului
"At the core of capitalism is private control of the means of production, including land, factories and knowledge. This is backed up, ultimately, by the coercive power of the state. Generally speaking, the system of ownership and control encourages individuals and groups to put special interests above general interests. This is responsible for many of the problems with capitalism.
What is called capitalism can be many things. It is typically a system in which a small number of large corporations dominate in most sectors of the economy. This is commonly called “monopoly capitalism” though “oligopolistic capitalism” would be more accurate. Capitalism is never a pure or free-standing system but in practice is always intertwined with other systems of power, including the state, patriarchy and the domination of nature. Free-market libertarians advocate a totally free market, perhaps maintained by a “minimal” state, but such a system is, as yet, hypothetical. “Capitalism” as discussed here refers to “actually existing capitalism.”

Care sunt asadar criticile lui Brian Martin fata de capitalism?

1. Inegalitatile socio-economice
"Social inequality is fostered within and between societies: the rich become richer and the poor become poorer. There is nothing in systems of exchange that promotes equality, and in practice countries or individuals that amass wealth can use the wealth to gain advantages over others. One of the rationales for government is to control and compensate for the tendency of markets to generate inequality. If a person has a serious disability, they may be unable to produce as much as an able-bodied worker, or perhaps unable to obtain a job at all. In a society built around people, the person with a disability would be given support and training to become a productive member of society. Capitalism has no process for achieving this. Similarly, a country that is much poorer in natural resources or skills cannot compete with richer countries. Rather than helping that country,
international capitalism keeps it in a dependent position."

Pe scurt, capitalismul este sistemul bogatilor, caci duce in practica la imbogatirea continua a celor avuti si saracirea celor mai putin avuti, pe care are tendinta sa ii si discrimineze.

2. Exploatare la locul de munca
"• Work is unsatisfying. Under capitalism, work is a means to an end, namely to get money to purchase goods and services, rather than an end in itself.
• Workers are alienated from the product of their labour. Because decisions about products and methods of work are mostly made by employers, workers essentially become cogs in the workplace, often with little personal connection with the ultimate outcome of their labour. This is especially the case when there is a fine division of labour, as when workers in Malaysia produce one component of a car that is assembled in Korea and sold in the US.
• Those who cannot obtain jobs suffer poverty and boredom. Markets do not guarantee jobs for everyone, and employers benefit from a “reserve labour force” of unemployed people, the existence of which keeps those with jobs in line. Since work is one of the things that gives many people their sense of identity, those who are unemployed suffer boredom, greater health problems and loss of motivation as well as poverty."

Pe scurt, goana dupa bani ii determina pe multi lucratori sa aleaga meseriile cele mai banoase, chiar daca nu au aptitudinile necesare si astfel apare lipsa de satisfactie la locul de munca. Totodata, muncitorii fiind pe post de simpli angajati la patron, nu detin pozitii decizionale legate de munca si produsele lor, fiind astfel alienati la locul de munca. Somajul este cauzat si mentinut tot de practicile burgheziei, care beneficiaza de un procent ridicat si constant de someri in societate, pentru a-si asigura docilitatea celor angajati.
3. Consumerism, egoism, coruptie, distrugerea mediului natural
"• Consumers buy goods as substitute gratification in place of satisfying work and community life. Companies make money by selling goods and services and collectively promote a “consumer society.” Advertisers prey on people’s fears and inadequacies to encourage purchases.
• Opportunities for economic gain foster antisocial and dangerous practices, such as bribery, workplace hazards and legislation to protect monopolies. When profits and corporate survival become the prime concern, all sorts of abuses occur. Corporations bribe government officials (legally or illegally) for special favours. To save money, unsafe working conditions are allowed to persist and injured workers fired and given as little compensation as possible. Lobbying and pay-offs are used to encourage politicians to pass legislation to benefit the most powerful corporations, by giving them trade concessions, preferential treatment, government contracts, and guaranteed monopolies.
• Selfishness is encouraged and cooperation discouraged. Since wealth and income are acquired primarily by individuals, capitalism fosters individualism and encourages selfishness. Sharing of ideas and labour is discouraged when only a few reap the benefits.
• The profit motive encourages production and promotion of products with consequences harmful to human health and the environment, such as cigarettes, pesticides and greenhouse gases. It is common for products such as pharmaceuticals to be sold even though they have not been adequately tested or are known to have dangerous side-effects, and for efforts to be made to boost sales and avoid paying compensation to victims. Most environmental impacts are treated as “externalities”: their cost to society is not incorporated in the price. Consequently, there is no built-in market incentive to eliminate environmental impacts that are borne by others, and a strong profit incentive to oppose attempts by governments or others. In contrast, there is little or no profit incentive to promote certain options that are healthy and environmentally sound, such as walking to work or sharing goods."

Am vazut pana aici ca sistemul capitalist este opus practic fiecarei surse verificate de fericire: asigura venituri mari celor deja bogati, nesporandu-le astfel semnificativ fericirea, in schimb ii saraceste pe cei deja cu o situatie materiala precara, adica tocmai pe cei pentru care veniturile in plus ar fi constituit o sursa majora de satisfactie; transforma locul de munca si activitatea productiva intr-una in care satisfactia propriu-zisa oferita de munca tinde sa scada, in schimb creste volumul de munca, alienarea si somajul; perpetueaza consumerismul, egoismul, coruptia si distrugerea mediului cand de fapt valorile materiale nu mai sporesc fericirea odata depasit pragul de saracie, altruismul e o sursa verificata de fericire, la fel ca si democratia si un mediu curat, ambele anti-tetice capitalismului.

Brian Martin vorbeste si despre anumite avantaje pe care le-ar avea capitalismul, mai exact cresterea productivitatii si sporirea numarului de produse de pe piata.

"Capitalism has repeatedly demonstrated the capacity to promote great increases in the productive capacities of societies, harnessing individual and social drives for improved living standards. This is not guaranteed, as periodic recessions, depressions and collapses have demonstrated; also, increased economic productivity is possible in other systems such as state socialism. However, capitalism has an impressive record, with economic growth in numerous countries being far greater globally than in the days of feudalism. [...] Although many harmful and wasteful products are produced, capitalist markets are responsive enough to produce and distribute many largely beneficial products, such as vegetables, bricks, beds and recorded music. Indeed, the amazing range of consumer choice is one of the most enticing features of the capitalist system. In buying screws, breakfast cereals, travel packages or building materials, there are options for nearly every taste and requirement."

Cresterea productivitatii este un factor pozitiv, insa si aici avem de-a face cu crize, recesiuni si depresii periodice. In plus, atata timp cat "bogatii devin tot mai bogati, saracii tot mai saraci" , este calar ca de cresterea productivitatii se vor bucura, in final, tot cei mai bogati, asa ca aceasta prosperitate nu ajunge exact acolo unde e mai mare nevoie de ea, la cei nevoiasi.
Pe de alta parte, bogatia si multitudinea de produse de pe piata, departe de a fi un avantaj, am explicat ca nu face decat sa produca oboseala, nehotarare si anxietate in randul consumatorilor, vezi "paradoxul alegerii" al lui Barry Schwartz. Iata decat ca pretinsele avantaje ale capitalismului ori tind sa devina ineficiente, ori chiar sa se transforme in dezavantaje.
Pana aici, citatele din Martin pot fi gasite in capitolul doi al cartii amintite, intitulate "Capitalism from the Viewpoint of Nonviolence Strategy".

Cum avem deja suficient motive de a combate capitalismul, este downshiftingul, simplitatea voluntara sustinuta pe acest blog, un mod de a-l combate? In mod cert, da, si Brian Martin explica de ce.

"Voluntary simplicity
One of the driving forces behind capitalism is ever-increasing consumption. If people always want better clothes, larger houses, fancier cars, more sophisticated computer software, and any number of other goods and services, there are ample opportunities for making money by providing for these desires. Much advertising is designed to make people feel inadequate and stimulate them to buy products to overcome this perceived inadequacy, whether it is soft drinks, kitchen cleaning products or holiday cruises. If most people want more than they already have, they are more likely to work hard in order to make money to spend.
However, if lots of people decided that they are satisfied with a few basic, long-lasting possessions, the economy would suffer. The voluntary simplicity movement aims at cutting back on unnecessary consumption.
• Instead of seeking a large house or apartment, a lesser scale is preferred.
• Instead of two or three cars for a family, there is only one, or perhaps none with bicycles instead.
• Instead of buying lots of new clothing, a smaller amount of clothing is kept, which may be obtained second-hand.
• Instead of purchasing large collections of books and recordings, libraries are used instead.

There are various motivations for voluntary simplicity, including concern about the environmental impacts of production, a personal preference for an uncluttered and less hectic lifestyle, an escape from the treadmill of working to earn money in order to consume, an expression of solidarity with those who have less, and an unwillingness to support the ever-expanding capitalist system. [...]

Voluntary simplicity undermines the legitimacy of capitalism as a system of ever-increasing production and consumption. It is a threat, then, to the conventional picture of capitalism. Of course, capitalism does not always work well, and in periods of depression there is drastically reduced output, which may cause widespread “involuntary simplicity.”
Voluntary simplicity contributes to building nonviolent alternatives to capitalism, in as much as these alternatives are based on satisfying needs rather than pandering to unlimited wants. Establishing a culture where people are modest and realistic about their needs is a helpful step towards an economy based on cooperation and helping those with greatest needs."

Intr-adevar, cu patronatele investesc anual sume colosale de bani in marketying si advertising tocmai pentru a spori consumul, vanzarile si deci profiturile, a renunta la a mai cumpara si munci in exces nu poate avea decat efecte nedorite de burghezie. Falimentarea a numerosi patroni si, in general, scaderea profiturilor patronatului, pot duce la slabirea capitalismului ca sistem.
Citatul legat de simplitatea voluntara este luat din capitolul "Economic Alternatives as Strategies".

Intreaga lucrare a profesorului Brian Martin, "Nonviolence versus Capitalism" poate fi citita la adresa: http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/pubs/01nvc/

Monday, May 12, 2008

Dr. Csikszentmihalyi si starea de flux

Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi preda psihologia la Universitatea din Claremont, California. Printre pozitiile ocupate in trecut se numara cea de sef al departamentului de psihologie din Universitatea din Chicago, si al departamentului de sociologie si antropologie la Colegiul Lake Forest. E suficient sa mai spunem aici ca insusi Martin Seligman, fostul presedinte al Asociatiei Psihologilor Americani, l-a descris pe Csikszentmihalyi ca fiind cel mai important cercetator din lume in domeniul emotiilor pozitive si fericirii.

In articolul sau intitulat sugestiv „If We Are So Rich, Why Aren't We Happy?”, American Psychologist, Volume 54(10), octombrie 1999, pag. 821–827, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi vorbeste mai intai de realitatea conform careia odata trecut un anumit prag modest, veniturile nu se mai coreleaza semnificativ cu fericirea, apoi prezinta explicatiile acestei stari de fapt pentru ca la urma sa prezinte o posibilitatea de a spori fericirea intr-o maniera ce nu presupune deloc acumularea de bani si care se dovedeste a fi si mult mai eficienta. Sa-l urmarim deci:

Realitatea: banii nu sporesc semnificativ fericirea
„Inhabitants of the wealthiest industrialized Western nations are living in a period of unprecedented riches, in conditions that previous generations would have considered luxuriously comfortable, in relative peace and security, and they are living on the average close to twice as long as their great-grandparents did. Yet, despite all these improvements in material conditions, it does not seem that people are so much more satisfied with their lives than they were before. (...) Although cross-national comparisons show a reasonable correlation between the wealth of a country as measured by its gross national product and the self-reported happiness of its inhabitants (Inglehart, 1990), the relationship is far from perfect. The inhabitants of Germany and Japan, for instance, nations with more than twice the gross national product of Ireland, report much lower levels of happiness.

Comparisons within countries show an even weaker relationship between material and subjective well-being. Diener, Horwitz, and Emmons (1985), in a study of some of the wealthiest individuals in the United States, found their levels of happiness to be barely above that of individuals with average incomes. After following a group of lottery winners, Brickman, Coates, and Janoff-Bulman (1978) concluded that despite their sudden increase in wealth, their happiness was no different from that of people struck by traumas, such as blindness or paraplegia. That having more money to spend does not necessarily bring about greater subjective well-being has also been documented on a national scale by David G. Myers (1993). His calculations show that although the adjusted value of after-tax personal income in the United States has more than doubled between 1960 and 1990, the percentage of people describing themselves as “very happy” has remained unchanged at 30% (Myers, 1993, pp. 41–42).”

Explicatia acestei stari de fapt
Primul motiv
„I'll start by reflecting on why material rewards, which people regard so highly, do not necessarily provide the happiness expected from them. The first reason is the well-documented escalation of expectations. If people strive for a certain level of affluence thinking that it will make them happy, they find that on reaching it, they become very quickly habituated, and at that point they start hankering for the next level of income, property, or good health. In a 1987 poll conducted by the Chicago Tribune, people who earned less than $30,000 a year said that $50,000 would fulfill their dreams, whereas those with yearly incomes of over $100,000 said they would need $250,000 to be satisfied (“Pay Nags,” 1987; “Rich Think Big,” 1987; see also Myers, 1993, p. 57). Several studies have confirmed that goals keep getting pushed upward as soon as a lower level is reached. It is not the objective size of the reward but its difference from one's “adaptation level” that provides subjective value (e.g., Davis, 1959; Michalos, 1985; Parducci, 1995).”

Al doilea motiv
„The second reason is related to the first. When resources are unevenly distributed, people evaluate their possessions not in terms of what they need to live in comfort, but in comparison with those who have the most. Thus, the relatively affluent feel poor in comparison with the very rich and are unhappy as a result. This phenomenon of “relative deprivation” (Martin, 1981; Williams, 1975) seems to be fairly universal and well-entrenched. In the United States, the disparity in incomes between the top percentage and the rest is getting wider; this does not bode well for the future happiness of the population.”

Al treilea motiv
„The third reason is that even though being rich and famous might be rewarding, nobody has ever claimed that material rewards alone are sufficient to make us happy. Other conditions—such as a satisfying family life, having intimate friends, having time to reflect and pursue diverse interests—have been shown to be related to happiness (Myers, 1993; Myers & Diener, 1995; Veenhoven, 1988). There is no intrinsic reason why these two sets of rewards—the material and the socioemotional—should be mutually exclusive. In practice, however, it is very difficult to reconcile their conflicting demands. As many psychologists from William James (1890) to Herbert A. Simon (1969) have remarked, time is the ultimate scarce resource, and the allocation of time (or more precisely, of attention over time) presents difficult choices that eventually determine the content and quality of our lives. This is why professional and business persons find it so difficult to balance the demands of work and family, and why they so rarely feel that they have not shortchanged one of these vital aspects of their lives.

Material advantages do not readily translate into social and emotional benefits. In fact, to the extent that most of one's psychic energy becomes invested in material goals, it is typical for sensitivity to other rewards to atrophy. Friendship, art, literature, natural beauty, religion, and philosophy become less and less interesting. The Swedish economist Stephen Linder was the first to point out that as income and therefore the value of one's time increases, it becomes less and less “rational” to spend it on anything besides making money—or on spending it conspicuously (Linder, 1970). The opportunity costs of playing with one's child, reading poetry, or attending a family reunion become too high, and so one stops doing such irrational things. Eventually a person who only responds to material rewards becomes blind to any other kind and loses the ability to derive happiness from other sources (see also Benedikt, 1999; Scitovsky, 1975). As is true of addiction in general, material rewards at first enrich the quality of life. Because of this, we tend to conclude that more must be better. But life is rarely linear; in most cases, what is good in small quantities becomes commonplace and then harmful in larger doses.”

Pe scurt, faptul ca ne obisnuim rapid cu un nivel superior de venituri, ca atata timp cat altii au mai mult decat noi, nu vom fi satisfacuti cu ce avem si ca goana dupa bani inseamna munca in exces care rapeste din timpul cuvenit surselor verificate de fericire, sunt tot atatea motive universale care dovedesc ca lacomia de bani si acceptarea inegalitatilor socio-economice sunt in cel mai bun caz ineficiente, in cel mai rau daunatoare bunastarii psihice umane. Dupa cum concluzioneaza Csikszentmihalyi, „ None of this is intended to suggest that the material rewards of wealth, health, comfort, and fame detract from happiness. Rather, after a certain minimum threshold—which is not stable but varies with the distribution of resources in the given society—they seem to be irrelevant.”

Experienta fluxului
Csikszentmihalyi explica faptul ca a intra in starea de flux este o cale spre sporirea fericirii, ce nu depinde de bani sau lux. Starea la care se refera psihologul este descrisa de wikipedia ca fiind „the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.”

In cuvintele autorului,
„The concept describes a particular kind of experience that is so engrossing and enjoyable that it becomes autotelic, that is, worth doing for its own sake even though it may have no consequence outside itself. Creative activities, music, sports, games, and religious rituals are typical sources for this kind of experience. Autotelic persons are those who have such flow experiences relatively often, regardless of what they are doing.

Of course, we never do anything purely for its own sake. Our motives are always a mixture of intrinsic and extrinsic considerations. For instance, composers may write music because they hope to sell it and pay the bills, because they want to become famous, because their self-images depends on writing songs—all of these being extrinsic motives. But if the composers are motivated only by these extrinsic rewards, they are missing an essential ingredient. In addition to these rewards, they could also enjoy writing music for its own sake—in which case, the activity would become autotelic. My studies (e.g., Csikszentmihalyi, 1975, 1996, 1997) have suggested that happiness depends on whether a person is able to derive flow from whatever he or she does.”

In ce consta starea de flux?
„A brief selection from one of the more than 10,000 interviews collected from around the world might provide a sense of what the flow experience is like. Asked how it felt when writing music was going well, a composer responded: You are in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don't exist. I have experienced this time and time again. My hand seems devoid of myself, and I have nothing to do with what is happening. I just sit there watching in a state of awe and wonderment. And the music just flows out by itself. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975, p. 44). This response is quite typical of most descriptions of how people feel when they are thoroughly involved in something that is enjoyable and meaningful to the person. First of all, the experience is described as “ecstatic”: in other words, as being somehow separate from the routines of everyday life. This sense of having stepped into a different reality can be induced by environmental cues, such as walking into a sport event, a religious ceremony, or a musical performance, or the feeling can be produced internally, by focusing attention on a set of stimuli with their own rules, such as the composition of music.
Next, the composer claims that “you feel as though you almost don't exist.” This dimension of the experience refers to involvement in the activity being so demanding that no surplus attention is left to monitor any stimuli irrelevant to the task at hand. Thus, chess players might stand up after a game and realize that they have splitting headaches and must run to the bathroom, whereas for many hours during the game they had excluded all information about their bodily states from consciousness.
The composer also refers to the felt spontaneity of the experience: “My hand seems devoid of myself … I have nothing to do with what is happening.” Of course, this sense of effortless performance is only possible because the skills and techniques have been learned and practiced so well that they have become automatic. This brings up one of the paradoxes of flow: One has to be in control of the activity to experience it, yet one should not try to consciously control what one is doing. (...)

You lose your sense of time, you're completely enraptured, you are completely caught up in what you're doing, and you are sort of swayed by the possibilities you see in this work. If that becomes too powerful, then you get up, because the excitement is too great ….”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi clarifica faptul ca starea de flux nu depinde de belsugul material: „The prerequisite for happiness is the ability to get fully involved in life. If the material conditions are abundant, so much the better, but lack of wealth or health need not prevent one from finding flow in whatever circumstances one finds at hand. In fact, our studies suggest that children from the most affluent families find it more difficult to be in flow—compared with less well-to-do teenagers, they tend to be more bored, less involved, less enthusiastic, less excited.”

Pentru mai multe detalii despre starea de flux, continutul ei, conditiile de aparitie ale ei etc. puteti citi articolul din care am citat, la adresa: http://www.educ.msu.edu/DWongLibrary/CEP991/Csikszentmihalyi-RichHappy.doc

Si mai indicat e sa ii cititi cartea „Starea de flux”, aparuta in limba romana la Editura Curtea Veche, in anul 2007.

Ca un scurt rezumat, fericirea depinde prea putin de avere si bogatie odata ce o limita minima e depasita, in schimb poate fi sporita daca invatam sa ne „afundam” in activitatile noastre zilnice, ca savuram clipa prezenta, sa ne concentram asupra activitatilor noastre chiar pana la punctul de uita de noi. Iar atunci cand putem atinge starea de flux in moduri active, implicându-ne fizic, mental si emotional in activitati precum „work, sports, hobbies, meditation, and interpersonal relationships—then the chances for a complex life that leads to happiness improve.”

Putem spori fericirea prin simplificarea vietii, sport si modestie

Profesorul Tal Ben-Shahar este doctor al prestigioasei universitati Harvard, unde a fost si lector al unui curs de psihologie, in prezent predand la Universitatea de Studii Interdisciplinare Herzliya din Israel. La 29 decembrie 2007, Tal Ben-Shahar a publicat in The Guardian un articol in care evidentiaza caile de obtinere si sporire a fericirii, nu inainte de a sublinia impotenta imbogatirii materiale de a ridica bunastarea psihica a oamenilor.

Bogatia creste, la fel si anxietatea si depresia
Half a century ago, over 50% in Britain said that they were very happy; today, approximately one third of the population feels the same way - despite the fact that the British have tripled their wealth over the past five decades. We see similar trends around the world. With the rapid growth in the Chinese economy comes a rapid growth in the number of adults and children who experience anxiety and depression. In the United States, rates of depression are 10 times higher today than they were in the 1960s, and the average age for the onset of depression is 14 and a half compared to 29 and a half in 1960.
Even though our generation - in most western countries as well as in an increasing number of places in the east - is wealthier than previous generations, we are not happier for it. [...]
If it is not wealth - and, as numerous studies show, it is not prestige and status either - what is it? In other words, how can you make 2008 a happier year? Positive psychologists attempt to answer this question by drawing on rigorous academic research, on scientific evidence."

Printre sugestiile izvorate din experienta stiintifica a ultimelor decenii, simplificarea voluntara a vietii particulare este una de baza:

Simplificarea vietii
"There is little doubt that mothers love their children, possibly more than anything in the world, and yet as a result of having too much to do, they cannot enjoy time with them. Cell phones, emails - the rising complexity of modern life - add to the constant time pressure, and to the experience of potentially enjoyable activities as distracting.
Time pressure is pervasive and, to some extent, accounts for the culture-wide increase in rates of depression. We are, generally, too busy, trying to squeeze more activities into less time. Consequently, we fail to savour potential sources of happiness that may be all around us - whether it is our work, an outing, a piece of music, the landscape, our soul mate, or even our children."

Practicarea sportului
"More and more studies in the area of mind-body medicine show the mental health benefits of physical exercise. Michael Babyak and his colleagues at Duke University medical school, for example, showed that exercising three times a week for 30 minutes each time was as helpful for patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder as taking an antidepressant. Moreover, those who were on the drug were four times more likely to relapse once the intervention ended than those who exercised.
Is exercising, then, like taking an antidepressant? Not exactly. In essence, not exercising is like taking a depressant. We have the need for exercise, and when this need is not fulfilled, we pay a price. We were not made to be inactive, sitting in front of a computer all day. We were made to run after an antelope for lunch, or run away from a lion so that we don't become lunch. We frustrate a physical need when we don't exercise, and when we frustrate a need - of vitamins, proteins, or exercise - we pay a price for it. John Ratey, a Harvard medical school professor of psychiatry says that:"In a way, exercise can be thought of as a psychiatrist's dream treatment. It works on anxiety, on panic disorder, and on stress in general, which has a lot to do with depression. And it generates the release of neurotransmitters - norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine - that are very similar to our most important psychiatric medicines. Having a bout of exercise is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin, right where it is supposed to go."And, I should add, with the potential positive side-effects of increased self-esteem, improved mental functioning, a longer life, better sleep, better sex, and a stronger immune system."

A te multumi cu ce ai
"One of the main barriers to happiness is that we tend to take for granted the good things in our lives, the full part of the glass. We rarely think about how blessed we are to have our health, or our friends, or the food on our table. After something bad happens to us - such as a loss or an illness - we often appreciate the good fortune we have had all along. Such awareness, such appreciation, is short-lived, though; we promptly adapt to our good fortune and no longer notice the wonderful things in our lives. [...]

Though still in its infancy, there is a growing body of research within positive psychology on gratitude, showing the benefits of appreciating our lives. In an experiment run by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, subjects were divided into four groups. The first group were asked to write down, every night, at least five things for which they were grateful; the second group were asked to write down, every night, at least five hassles in their lives; the third group were asked to write five things they were better at than others; and the fourth group was asked to write down five major events in their lives.

The results were remarkable. Over the period of doing this experiment, the first group, those subjects who listed the things for which they were grateful, felt better about life, were more optimistic, had fewer physical symptoms, were more likely to achieve their goals, and helped others more. There were physical and mental benefits to this exercise."

Articolul din care am citat, intitulat "Cheer up. Here's how ..." poate fi citit integral la adresa: http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/wellbeing/story/0,,2233116,00.html

Ce trebuie sa retinem de aici? 1. ca a cauta fericirea in imbogatire si progres economic e un proces iluzoriu si 2. ca fericirea poate fi sporita cu adevarat prin simplificarea vietii, practicarea sporturilor, multumirea cu ce avem.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Exemplu de risipa capitalisto-consumerista

Ziarul gandul din 9 mai ne informeaza ca in ciuda lipsei cronice de mancare ce se prefigureaza la nivel global, locuitorii din tarile capitaliste bogate isi permit luxul sa arunce anual tone intregi de mancare perfect comestibila.

"Britanicii aruncă în fiecare zi la gunoi 550.000 de pui, relevă un studiu recent. Este o cifră mare, în condiţiile în care s-a declanşat, de ceva timp, o criză mondială a alimentelor, iar creşterea preţurilor la bunurile de larg consum ameninţă viaţa a un miliard de persoane pe plan global. Şi lucrurile nu se opresc aici, deoarece acelaşi studiu, comandat de guvernul de la Londra, relevă că în fiecare zi, britanicii aruncă 220.000 de franzele, 1,6 milioane de banane, 5,1 milioane de cartofi, 660.000 de ouă, 1,2 milioane de cârnaţi şi 1,3 milioane de cutii de iaurt.

Tot la tomberonul de gunoi ajung 4,4 milioane de mere, 300.000 de pungi de chipsuri, 440.000 de cutii cu mâncare gata preparată, 710.000 pachete de ciocolată sau dulciuri, 260.000 de cutii cu brânză, 50.000 de sticle de milkshake şi 25.000 de cutii cu sos de gătit. Majoritatea sunt neîncepute, în ambalajul original. Valoarea în bani a produselor alimentare irosite într-un singur an în Marea Britanie este de 10 miliarde de lire sterline, informează Rompres, citând cotidianul The Independent. Autorii studiului au mai calculat că o singură familie britanică iroseşte, în medie, alimente de peste 420 de lire sterline pe an.

Suma se ridică la 610 lire sterline pentru familiile care nu au copii. Asta, în condiţiile în care, doar în ultima lună, preţurile au crescut în Marea Britanie cu 4,7%, subliniază publicaţia britanică. Ministrul britanic al Mediului, Joan Ruddock, s-a declarat “şocată” de aceste cifre: “Consumatorii plătesc de fapt de trei ori mai mult. Nu îşi dau doar banii munciţi din greu pe alimente pe care nu le consumă, ci trebuie să suporte şi costul rezolvării problemei deşeurilor create prin aruncarea mâncării. Şi mai sunt şi costurile legate de mediu – care ne costă pe toţi – cum ar fi procesarea, împachetarea, transportarea şi refrigerarea mâncării care ajunge în cele din urmă la gunoi”.

Iata, asadar, unde duce nebunia consumerista: la risipa grosolana si poluare. Moderatia si schimbarea mentalitatii conform careia fericirea ar spori direct proportional cu consumul sunt singurele care pot pune capat acestei stari de lucruri iresponsabile.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Si americanii incep sa renunte la materialism

Daca in urma cu cateva saptamani scriam ca „Romanii incep sa se destepte”, prin interesul crescand fata de timpul lor liber si viata in comunitate, in paralel cu scaderea pasiunii fata de acumularea de valori materiale si al respectului fata de cei avuti, iata ca un studiu realizat de institutul american de studii de piata, Pew Research Center, confirma ca acesta incepe sa devina un adevarat trend.

Evenimentul Zilei a anuntat la 5 mai 2008 ca: „Libertatea face toti banii--Timpul liber suficient este mai important pentru majoritatea americanilor decât să fie bogaţi, arată un nou sondaj de opinie, realizat de Pew Social & Demographic Trends Project. Doar 13% dintre cei peste 2.400 de subiecţi intervievaţi telefonic au plasat bogăţia pe primul loc, 67 de procente apreciind că timpul liber este mai valoros. Sondajul a mai relevat că persoanele cu studii superioare plasează cariera înaintea averii, la fel ca şi persoanele de vârstă mijlocie, indiferent de studii. ”

Care sunt, mai in detaliu, rezultatele studiului american? Aflam direct de la sursa, http://pewresearch.org/pubs/816/who-wants-to-be-rich :

„Four times more people say "doing volunteer work or donating to charity" is a very important priority than say the same about being wealthy (52% vs. 13%). And about five times more Americans (67%) say it's very important to them to have enough free time, the top-rated value in this survey, which was conducted by telephone from Jan. 24 through Feb. 19, 2008 among a nationally representative sample of 2,413 adults.”

Asadar, interesul pentru timpul liber si pentru activitatile voluntare in sprijinul comunitatii sunt valori de la 4 pana la 5 ori mai importante pentru americani decat imbogatirea. In general, prioritatile americanilor sunt dupa cum urmeaza:

Intelepciunea vine cu varsta si cu educatia. Cu cat oamenii inainteaza in varsta si in studii, cu atat sunt mai putin interesati de imbogatire: „Wealth holds a great attraction for the young, this survey finds. Fully 20% of all adults under age 30 say being wealthy is a top priority -- easily the largest proportion of any age group. Another 42% say it's at least somewhat important to them. But the dream apparently diminishes with age. Only about 14% of adults between the ages of 30 and 49 place a high premium on being wealthy. And by the time adults reach their 50s, just one-in-ten place a similarly high priority on riches.(...) Education follows a similar pattern, with those with a high school education or less significantly more likely than college graduates to value wealth (18% vs. 7%) and somewhat more likely to say riches aren't a personal goal at all (6% vs. 10%).”

Minoritarii si saracii, cei mai interesati de bani: „Minorities also are significantly more likely than whites to value wealth. More than a quarter (26%) of all blacks says that it's very important to them to be rich, nearly three times the proportion of whites (9%). Hispanics are more than twice as likely as whites to rate wealth as a top priority (21% vs. 9%). Overall, first-generation Americans are twice as likely as subsequent generations to say it's important to them to be rich (25% vs. 12%). (...) Being wealthy tends to be highly valued by many whose current circumstances suggest they face long odds of ever becoming well-off including unemployed men as well as the least well-educated. About a quarter of each group say being rich is very important to them. For many of these Americans, this expressed desire for wealth may reflect little more than the desire to be financially more secure.” Acest rezultat nu poate surprinde, din moment ce se stie ca e nevoie de bani pana este trecut pragul saraciei, dar ca acestia aduc satisfactii din ce in ce mai mici odata ce el e trecut. Cei saraci isi doresc exagerat de multi bani tocmai pentru acestia le lipsesc exagerat de mult, este ca si atunci cand iti este foarte foame si iti imaginezi ca ai manca o cantitate mare de alimente.

In concluzie, studiul Pew Research Center verifica sau, dupa caz, se coreleaza cu cateva dintre pozitiile cheie sustinute pe acest blog:

1. timpul liber, viata de familie si comunitate sunt mai importante pentru bunastarea umana decat inavutirea.

2. oamenii bine informati si cu experienta de viata sunt mai dezinteresati de materialismul financiar.

3. banii sunt necesari pana la depasirea pragului de saracie, insa isi pierd mult importanta dupa acest moment.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Ce e mult, dauneaza

In postarea "Prosperitatea nefericirii" explicam, folosindu-ma de scrierile lui Barry Schwartz, ca multitudinea de produse de pe piata capitalista, departea de a spori fericirea si de a fi astfel un argument in favoarea capitalismului, are efectecontrare, de a mari anxietatea si nemultumirea.
Azi vom vedea ca un nou studiu confirma acesta judecata: prea multe optiuni sunt daunatoare bunastarii psihice.
Intr-un articol publicat in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2008, Vol. 94, No. 5, 883–898, intitulat "Making Choices Impairs Subsequent Self-Control: A Limited-Resource Account of Decision Making, Self-Regulation, and Active Initiative", o echipa de sase cercetatori, in frunte cu Kathleen Vohs de la Universitatea din Minnesota, sustin ca multitudinea de alegeri dintre produsele de pe piata duce la oboseala, epuizare, stres si diminuarea controlului de sine.
Un bun rezumat al studiilor efectuate de cei sase oameni de stiinta se gaseste la adresa http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/too-many-choices-good-or-bad-can-be-mentally-exhausting-15905.html

Sa-l urmarim:
Experimentul 1:
"Researchers conducted seven experiments involving 328 participants and 58 consumers at a shopping mall. In the laboratory experiments, some participants were asked to make choices about consumer products, college courses or class materials. Other participants did not have to make decisions but simply had to consider the options in front of them.

The scientists then asked each group to participate in one of two unpleasant tasks. Some were told to finish a healthy but ill-tasting drink (akin to taking ones medicine). Other participants were told to put their hands in ice water. The tasks were designed to test how the previous act of choosing, or not choosing, affected peoples’ ability to stay on task and maintain behaviors aimed at reaching a goal.

Researchers found that the participants who earlier had made choices had more trouble staying focused and finishing the disagreeable but goal-focused tasks compared to the participants who initially did not have to make choices."

Experimentul 2:
"In other experiments, participants were given math problems to practice for an upcoming test. The participants who had to make important choices involving coursework spent less time solving the math problems and more time engaging in other distractions such as playing video games or reading magazines, compared to participants who were not asked to make choices prior to that point. The participants who made choices also got more math problems wrong than participants not faced with decisions."

Experimentul 3:
"To further buttress their laboratory findings, the researchers conducted a field test at a shopping mall. The shoppers reported how much decision-making they had done while shopping that day and then were asked to solve simple arithmetic problems. The researchers found that the more choices the shoppers had made earlier in the day, the worse they performed on the math problems. The authors note they controlled for how long the participants had been shopping, and for several demographic categories such as age, race, ethnicity and gender."

Experimentul 4:
"But what about making fun choices" How does that affect our mental acuity" In their last experiment, researchers determined that making a few enjoyable decisions, such as spending four minutes selecting items for a gift registry, was shown to be less mentally draining than when participants spent 12 minutes doing the same task. In other words, even if people are having fun making decisions, their cognitive functions are still being depleted with every choice they make."

Concluziile cercetatoarei Kathleen Vohs:

"Kathleen D. Vohs, PhD, the study’s lead author and a member of the University of Minnesota’s marketing department, concluded that making choices apparently depletes a precious resource within the human mind. “Maintaining one’s focus while trying to solve problems or completing an unpleasant task was much harder for those who had made choices compared to those who had not,” says Vohs.

“This pattern was found in the laboratory, classroom and shopping mall. Having to make the choice was the key. It did not matter if the researchers told them to make choices, or if it was a spontaneously made choice, or if making the choice had consequences or not.”Vohs says these experiments provide evidence that making choices, as opposed to just thinking about options, is what is especially taxing. “There is a significant shift in the mental programming that is made at the time of choosing, whether the person acts on it at that time or sometime in the future. Therefore, simply the act of choosing can cause mental fatigue,” says Vohs. “Making choices can be difficult and taxing, and there is a personal price to choosing.”

Din studiul originar, merita sa retinem ca:

"People clamor for freedom in their private and political lives. They exhibit patterns such as reactance (Brehm, 1966; Fitzsimons & Lehmann, 2004) and illusions of control (Ariely, 2000; Langer, 1975) that indicate deeply rooted motives to maintain a feeling of having choices. The marketplace, normally a reliable guide to what people want, offers ever more fine-grained
choices, from dozens of car makes and models to (most recently) personalized boxes of disposable tissue paper. On the other hand, people tire of the endless demands for choice and the stress of decision making. In related research, there are signs that too much choice can be detrimental to satisfaction and that people resist facing up to the tradeoffs that many choices involve (Iyengar & Lepper, 2000; Luce, Payne, & Bettman, 1999). One recent analysis demonstrated that behavioral commitment (i.e., buying) initially rose with the number of options but fell when even more options were presented (Avni & Wolford, 2007). The present investigation
sought to shed light on the psychic costs of choice. Making choices can be difficult and effortful, and there is a personal price to choosing, which is seen in worse self-regulation.

The main hypothesis was that deliberate, effortful choice consumes a limited resource needed for a broad range of executive functions, including self-regulation. Participants made a series of choices about consumer products, college courses, or class materials—or in the no-choice conditions, participants read, studied, and rated those materials without choosing among them. Making choices apparently depleted a precious self-resource because subsequent self-regulation was poorer among those who had made
choices than it was among those who had not. This pattern was found in the laboratory, classroom, and shopping mall. It was found with assigned choices and spontaneously made choices. It was found with inconsequential and more consequential choices."

Stdiul intreg poate fi gasit la adresa: http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/psp945883.pdf

Astfel, un argument care aparent ar fi trebuit sa sustina capitalismul, in speta multitudinea de produse de pe piata, care la o prima vedere ar fi parut ca sporeste libertatea si bunastarea consumatorilor, este in realitate impotriva pietei libere: prea multe produse nu fac decat sa cauzeze anxietate, oboseala, stres, pierderea--fie si temporara--a deplinatatii capacitatilor mentale. Cu atat mai mult intentia de a spori cresterea economica si belsugul trebuie pusa sub semnul intrebarii. O societatea care satisface nevoile de baza ale tuturor mebrilor si, in plus, le ofera o varietate limitata de produse este mai in acord cu natura umana decat una care nu reuseste sa le asigurere tuturor satisfacerea nevoilor de baza, in schimb le permite altora avantajul, deloc convingator, de a alege din cat mai multe produse.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Clive Hamilton indeamna spre downshifting

Mai vechea noastra cunostinta, Clive Hamilton, autorul lucrarii "Growth Fetish", director al Australian Institute, master in matematica la Universitatea Nationala din Australia, specialist in economie al Universitatii din Sydney si doctor in economie la Universitatea din Sussex, a tinut la 17 mai 2005 o cuvantare la Shared Journey Conference. Subiectele abordate au tinut de raportul dintre fericire, bani si munca in exces. Sa-l urmarim:

Munca in exces in Austraila
"Australia has undergone a far-reaching transformation over the last two decades, and we are only now starting to wake up to it. It has various expressions but one of them is the reversal of the historical decline in working hours. Australians now are seriously overworked. Whilst Australians often think of themselves as living in the land of the long weekend, they are now working the longest hours in the developed world and in fact are at risk of working themselves sick. Australian employees work an average of 1855 hours each year, 13 per cent more than the developed country average. Employees in Norway work an average of only 1376 hours per year, 26 per cent less than Australians. Australians work on average longer than the super-efficient Germans, the Americans and even the Japanese who are known for the phenomenon of karoshi or ‘death by overwork’. Australia has the fourth highest proportion of people working more than 50 hours a week and the number of Australians working these hours has grown faster than in any other industrialised country."

Goana dupa consumerism si lux nu poate spori satisfactia
" Let’s face it, people who are preoccupied with money tend to be selfish and unpleasant to be around; yet Australians are far more preoccupied with money than they have ever been, despite their affluence. In fact, I would say it is because of their affluence.
The growing hours of work have been matched by an unprecedented spending spree, especially over the last 10 years. In the last ten years personal debt has increased from a little over $6,000 per household to over $14,000. Lending for housing rose from around $22,000 per household to $77,000 per household.
This huge level of indebtedness is certainly not because we are experiencing hard times and people have had to borrow to tide them over. In financial terms, most Australians have never had it so good. Incomes have been growing rapidly; even those at the bottom have been keeping up with the average.
Rich societies like Australia’s appear to be in the grip of a severe bout of ‘affluenza’, an epidemic of overconsumption and money-hunger. Here’s one definition:

Af-flu-en-za n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the Australian Dream.

At its heart, affluenza describes a condition in which we are confused about what it takes to live a fulfilling life. Part of this confusion is a failure to distinguish between what we want and what we need. But what are our ‘needs’? In the last decade, items that have been transformed from luxuries to necessities in most Australian homes include plasma TVs, home air-conditioning, personal computers, second bathrooms, mobile phones and, increasingly, private health insurance and private schooling for children.
In other words, there has been a relentless ratcheting up of desire, a scaling up of expectations about what it takes to have a decent standard of living. The desired standard of living of the typical household is now so far above the actual standard afforded by incomes that people feel constantly deprived of the ‘good life’."

Un exemplu concret

"Increasingly, Australians are not satisfied with standard appliances but demand high- quality professional ones. Instead of a standard gas or electric stove, kitchens are adorned with ovens with six cooking functions, turbo grills, touch controls, triple-glazed doors and the ability to defrost food before cooking it. Increasingly, the kitchen in the home is being duplicated by super barbeques promoted as the ‘kitchen outdoors’. While a barbeque in the 1980s was typically assembled at home from 150 bricks, a hot plate and a wood storage area, in 1998 the top of the line model cost $2,000. Today the ‘Turbo Cosmopolitan’ at Barbeques Galore, described as ‘Australia’s most prestigious gourmet outdoor entertainment system’, sells for $4,990. Made of vitreous enamel, it boasts electronic multi-spark ignition in each of six burners, deluxe cast iron plates and a dual glass window roasting hood. It can roast, smoke, bake and grill. However, even the Turbo Cosmopolitan has been superseded by the Grand Turbo, the main features of which are an infrared rotisserie rear burner and a price tag of $6,990. Few people buy the most sophisticated barbeques, but their existence serves to drive up the level of desire. After looking at the Turbo Cosmopolitan or the Grand Turbo, buyers are more likely to buy the Cordon Bleu for $1,299, ‘the latest look in barbeques and one of our top sellers’, instead of paying $200-$300 for a standard gas model. An advertisement for the Rinnai ‘Monaco Outdoor Kitchen’ (retail price $2,399) declares: ‘I love the look on the neighbours’ face when I roll out the Rinnai’. Australians today can spend more on a set of tongs for the barbeque than they spent on the barbeque itself in 1970."

Materialismul si nemultumirea

"For those who have decided that the main goal in life is to make as much money as they can, I have some bad news. The chances are they are headed for a life of discontent, and there is a mountain of empirical evidence from psychologists to prove it.
In a series of studies, psychologists Tim Kasser and Richard Ryan distinguish between two sets of personal goals or beliefs about the sources of happiness. The first is the belief that the path to happiness lies in the pursuit of the external goals of wealth, fame and physical attractiveness. Clearly, this is the modern image of consumer society and career success with which we are bombarded every day. Television shows like ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ exploit this belief. [...]

After classifying individuals according to whether they pursue extrinsic goals or intrinsic goals, the researchers then ask which group is happier. The conclusion from their studies is unambiguous.
Individuals oriented towards materialistic, extrinsic goals are more likely to experience lower quality of life than individuals oriented toward intrinsic goals.
But the news gets worse. Not only are those with external, material orientation in life less happy than those with intrinsic goals, but they make others less happy too.
Extrinsically oriented individuals are shown to have shorter, more conflict-ridden, and more competitive relationships with others … In sum, the pursuit of personal goals for money, fame and attractiveness is shown to lead to a lower quality of life than the goals of relatedness, self-acceptance and community feeling. Yet these studies only confirm what many people know intuitively - that the goals of wealth, fame and attractiveness are hollow.
Other studies show that people who are driven by external rewards tend to be more depressed than others, and they suffer from higher levels of psychological disturbance. [...] The results strongly suggest that the more our media, advertisers and opinion makers emphasise financial success as the chief means to happiness, the more they promote social pathologies. This is why the researchers I have quoted give their papers titles such as ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’ and ‘The Dark Side of the American Dream’.[...]
It has sometimes been observed that, no matter how wealthy people are, they believe they need more money to be happy. A Newspoll survey commissioned by my Institute found that nearly two-thirds of Australians believe that they cannot afford to buy everything they really need. When we consider that Australia is one of the world’s richest countries, and that Australians today have incomes three times higher than in 1950, it is remarkable that such a high proportion feel their incomes are inadequate."

Sunt bogatasii mai fericiti?
"As I have suggested, this research raises the question of whether richer people are happier than poorer ones. We know quite a lot about this. In the USA, there is virtually no difference in reported life satisfaction between people with incomes of $20,000 and $80,000. [...] It is even more remarkable that almost half of the richest 20 per cent of households in Australia (with incomes over $70,000 a year) say they cannot afford to buy everything they really need. We call them the ‘suffering rich’. As the American comedienne Lily Tomlin said: “The trouble with the rat race is that, even if you win, you are still a rat.”

Adevaratele surse de fericire
" The second is that happiness grows from striving for intrinsic goals - deeper relationships, personal growth and contributing to the community. [...] On the other hand, those who have intrinsic goals focussed on closer relationships, self betterment and helping others improve their levels of well-being as they attain their goals.
At the national level, if more income results in more happiness we would expect a growing nation to report increasing levels of life satisfaction over time.
In the USA, consistent surveys show that levels of reported life satisfaction have not changed since the 1950s despite a trebling of incomes per person. The same applies in Japan and Australia.
The conclusion is profoundly subversive: beyond a certain point, increased income does not result in any increase in well-being, and the national obsession with economic growth diverts us from the things that truly will improve the quality of life.
Money hunger is widely understood at an intuitive level. We can all see the madness of our insatiable desire to keep on consuming. For example, we want bigger and bigger houses – trophy homes or McMansions.
Despite the fact that the average size of households has fallen steadily over the last 30 years the size of houses has grown rapidly. The amount of space for each occupant in a new house has more than doubled since the early 1970s. And of course, bigger houses have to be filled with more expensive appliances and fitted with more luxurious furnishings and accessories such as home theatres and outdoor kitchens. But are we any happier floating around in these oversized houses?
So we live in an era of overconsumption. People are unwilling to save for these things nowadays. They want it now and go into debt to get it. So we might say … Consumption today consists of people spending money they don’t own, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.

Some researchers have sifted through the vast number of studies designed to find out what separates happy people from unhappy people. There is one factor that stands out above all others – it’s not cleverness, health, marriage, career success, extroversion … and it’s not how much money you have. “A sense of meaning and purpose is the single attitude most strongly associated with life satisfaction”.
The psychological research confirms in an academic way what the great sages have been telling us for centuries. It is the secret of life: the path to a rich and fulfilled life lies in devoting ourselves to a higher cause, to others. Put the other way around, the more we concentrate on our own circumstances - the more we pursue the extrinsic goals of wealth, celebrity and sexual conquest - the more unhappy and meaningless our lives will be. Yet our culture is built on the pursuit of happiness through material acquisition. We envy the rich for their wealth and apparent freedom and glamorous lifestyles, yet we know at a deeper level that they, like Faust who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for worldly success, have probably sacrificed what is truly valuable. As Goethe wrote:
In vain I gathered human treasure, And all that mortal spirit could digest: I come at last to recognise my measure, And know the sterile desert in my breast.
One of the more contemporary sages, Joseph Campbell, the great American mythologist, when asked by his students what they should do with their lives would say “Follow your bliss”. By this he meant that there is something in the world that you are perfectly suited for, an occupation or calling that feels exactly right for each person."

Spre downshifting!

"In the last decade we have seen the emergence of a new demographic, the downshifters, those people who have voluntarily decided to reduce their incomes and win back time to devote to activities they regard as more worthwhile than making more money. They put more emphasis on time with their families, and doing something that is fulfilling and worthwhile. Nearly a quarter of the population has made this shift, and they are by no means all middle-aged middle class people who have made it and can afford to take the risk. There are as many with moderate incomes as high incomes and they cover all family types.
Many of them have made the move to the coast - the sea-changers - or to the bush - the so-called tree-changers - but most of them just stay put. The downshifters are the precursors of a new politics of social change; for here we have a large class of citizens who consciously reject consumerism and the pre-occupations of the aspirational voter. While diverse in their reasons for downshifting, they agree that excessive pursuit of money and materialism comes at a substantial cost to their own lives and those of their families.
Downshifters therefore reject the hitherto unquestioned assumption of Australian politics that voters respond first and foremost to the ‘hip-pocket nerve’. These voters might be called ‘anti-aspirational voters’.
The emergence of a large class of downshifters in Australia challenges the main political parties to question their most fundamental assumptions about what makes for a better society. A preoccupation with more growth and higher incomes is no longer enough. The emergence of the downshifter calls for a redefinition of success; downshifters have defined successful living for themselves and their families in a way that thumbs its nose at the promises of consumerism. And it has the fortuitous by-product of being the only way we can save the environment.
Not far beneath the surface most Australians have a gnawing doubt about the value of a money-driven life. In our national survey we found that, despite most Australians saying they can’t afford to buy everything they need, 83 per cent also believe that our society is “too materialistic, that is too much emphasis on money and not enough on the things that really matter”. They suspect that the money society is at the root of the decline in values – the disposable relationships, instant gratification, moral laxity, selfishness, corporate greed and the loss of civic culture.

Most of us accept that there is a close link between the money society, the decline in values and many of the social problems we face. I think this points to a new way of understanding our society and a new political vision that can make Australia a better place to live, a vision of a society that is less selfish and materialistic and more devoted to the “things that really matter”. In an era when most of us feel alienated from politics, such a vision could once again give us hope that we can build a better future for us all."

Articolul poate fi citit in intregime la http://www.begavalley.nsw.gov.au/community/social_plan/CliveHamilton-speech.pdf

Care ar putea fi rezumatul afirmatiilor lui Clive Hamilton?
1. Societatea capitalista din prezent este axata pe materialism, goana dupa bani ca sursa a fericirii.
2. Materialismul nu poate spori fericirea, caci aceasta sta in lucruri intrinseci precum meditatia, aflarea adevaratei vocatii individuale, comuniune sociala etc., care nu pot fi cumparate si nu exista pe piata de vanzare.
3. Materialismul inseamna si munca in exces, care e in sine daunatoare si care nu face decat sa ne abata de la amintitele surse autentice de fericire.
4. Ambitia de a poseda lucrurile cele mai luxoase e o cursa fara sfarsit, caci tot timpul vor aparea obiecte si mai pretentioase decat cele existente.
5. Solutia este downshiftingul, ce consta in renuntarea la ambitiile consumeriste, relaxare, timp petrecut socializand, in beneficiul propriu si al comunitatii.
6. Se impune scaderea interesului pentru cresterea economica si combaterea lacomiei materialiste in beneficiul placerilor non-materiale.