Every year, as we mill around the shops buying presents, commentators warn that the "true meaning" of Christmas is being eroded. Queuing at the bottle shop, we hear how Christmas has become "too commercial"; gorging on seafood and turkey, we chide ourselves for our gluttony. We tell each other how Christmases in the past were simpler, that children nowadays are spoiled and that we have all become too materialistic.
This sense that we have lost sight of the more important things in life is not new. The Marxist critic, Raymond Williams, believed every generation expresses a nostalgic yearning for a more "authentic" past that it thinks has just been lost. He thought this feeling of emptiness was caused by capitalism. Excessive materialism leaves us feeling that something important is missing in our lives, and we project this missing humanity onto a romanticised ideal of the past...
...But is it true that capitalism creates empty and meaningless lives?
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