Materialism Theme

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Project Pages


Materialism Theme Project (Due 5/14)

Purpose of the Project

  • Examine a particular theme/topic in American Materialism by focusing on its role during the most materialistic periods in U.S. history (Gilded Age, 1920’s, 1950’s, 1980’s)  For a list of project topics please click here
  • Compare/contrast your era of study with contemporary materialism (esp. in the Conejo Valley)
  • Work with your group of four (two from each class) to create a documentary video and a companion website (click here for an example webpage)

Elements of Materialism

  • What people/groups are most materialistic?
  • What is the definition of material success / wealth? What are the various levels of material success?
  • What products/services/commodities are most desirable?
  • What values are demonstrated by this selection of items?

You might consider including:

  • percentages of population at each level of class/wealth
  • price comparisons of key items (milk, bread, gas, cars, housing, etc.) between the two time periods
  • comparisons of the most desirable assets for different classes (cars, houses, vacations, clothes, other luxury items, etc.)
  • careers, jobs, illegal activities people were involved in to gain wealth
  • comparative salaries for various professions (law, medicine, engineering, education, etc.)

Important Dates:

  • Library Research
  • Computer lab time 5/7 & 5/8, this time will also be available for groups who want to film on campus to do so
  • Presentations are May 14th

You will turn in:

  • Everything that shows you did actual research (notes, polls, pictures, brochures, websites, etc.)
  • Your video on DVD
  • Your PowerPoint presentation

Project Pages

New Goods I
New Goods II
New Goods III
Advertising I
Advertising II
Advertising III
Investment I
Investment II
Investment III
Philanthropy I
Philanthropy II Philanthropy III
Super Wealthy I
Super Wealthy II Super Wealthy III
Middle Class I
Middle Class II Middle Class III

Materialism Test Essays


Topic Definitions

New Goods and Services
buying trends and must have items
Technology and industry related to new production possibilities (WWII creates ability to produce massive amounts of consumer goods)
exclusivity of goods and services, what gives something cache?
product’s target audience
fads and fashionability (not just in clothing)

marketing strategies, including how cost affects desirability of product
marketing an item by “selling” something else
creating desire
targeting a certain age group, social class, geographic area, etc.
creating a trend or fad & using celebrity to sell products (babe Ruth to J Lo)

Investment/Finances/Big Economic Opportunities
schemes and scams
The “It” way of making money
rags to riches – the American dream
something for nothing – real estate, stocks, junk bonds, Savings & Loans, “bubbles”
credit cards, home loans, etc.
spending habits

Philanthropy/Public Service
giving back to bring others to increase status, creating a legacy, emptiness of consumption only lifestyle
spreading a love of the arts, literature, music through giving
trying to bring humanity and concern to those consumed by desire and greed
donating money as a means of establishing credibility
public perception

Super Wealthy
Definition of wealth for each era
Status symbols to establish this wealth (real estate, cars, clubs, vacations, clothing, events)
“Jobs” deemed appropriate for the elite
Exclusivity and how it is established
Competition amongst each other
Public image

Middle Class
Definition of wealth
Status symbols to establish this wealth
Occupations (how do you become middle class, how do you stay that way?)
Exclusivity and how it is established
Competition amongst each other – how do you become a better brand of middle class
Public image