1. Philosophy: The theory that physical matter is the only reality and that everything, including thought, feeling, mind, and will, can be explained in terms of matter and physical phenomena.
2. The theory or attitude that physical well-being and worldly possessions constitute the greatest good and highest value in life.
The two above are one and the same thing, or that the second crass materialism of the age is the incarnaration of philosophical materialism. And so, the bankrupt prevalent ideology of the affluent West with its materially comfortably off but truthless populations is materialism in practice. Materialism is devoid of any sense of truth whatsoever as it relates to human experience and any sense of hierarchies of being; no state of consciousness is to be valued over another, everything simply is- to be human is simply to be a physical object in the midst of other physical objects, and one's worth as an individual is in direct proportion to the worth of one's objects, ie, to be a consumer. The consumer exists in sofar as he consumes. So there is, perhaps paradoxically, a value-system of being, and it involves the ascension of truth in terms of objects reaching towards an absolute value in money terms. Like under spiritual visions of existence, humanity reaches towards infinity, but now one with a money sign preceding this infinity.
Both capitalism, by which is included consumerism, & communism are the transmutation of materialism into the realm of history past, present & projected future; they are lines which meet very naturally within the finite, springing as they do from the same source of materialist philsophy.
The exclusive materialism of pure consumerism must inevitably lead to the leakage of all meaning from civilisation as materialism is an active philosophical corrosive; it is without any higher truths, and must deny and remove any such notions of being. Despite its adherents claims, it is simply nihilism(cleverly masked with a demented grin of idiot happiness), and if modern civilisation is to consistently see it through to its end, it will see itself through to its own end also, arriving as it must at this nihilistic end-point towards which all is drawn.
The Richard Dawkins & other re-heaters of this old philosophy, which one would imagine were something new on the intellectual horizon, should look with pride on the game-show/Big Brother, Scrictly Come Lobotomising cultural mores of the present, as this is the logical incarnation of the materialism which they exalt. Everything simply is, so one has any argument against anything from cultural infantilism to extermination camps. And, naturally, great art which tends to exalt life as intrinsically significant is wholly undesired. The game show & boy-band is much more satisfactory; products of the entertainment industry to be consumed by who else but the consumers. A clear example of the omnipresence of this ideology having insinuated intself into culture is the nonsensical notion that one cannot say one art work is greater than another, all is mere opinion...for example, Boyzone are as great as The Beatles; everything simply is with nothing of any greater intrinsic worth than any other. As said, nihilisim in fancy dress.
The famous angst of modern society springs from the dislocation of individual consciousness from an external world under the sway of materialism, which the individual rightly feels to be inconsistent with his self-evidently significant consciousness. Rather than saying, for example "This is the spiritual, intellectual arena in which I dwell" & getting on with it, the poor individual's consciousness turns in upon itself, and he becomes this indwelling, unhappy individual; a modern gnostic- living in a divided world, though in place of the gnostic's escape route of the Absolute, he simply has his own individual angst-ridden consiousness to dive into.
Materialism is solipsism within the physical domain, though comically, unlike ordinary solipsism where the individual mind asserts itself to be all there is, the assertion is coming from the mind that the physical is all there is. Also, materialists can be seen as a variation on the sect of the castrates, though with the mind & consciousness being the troublesome area of temptation that must be removed or explained away.
Perhaps if its adherents live to see society see this idea through to its end, a voice will be heard to echo TS Eliot's lines:
That is not it at all.
That is not what I meant at all.
To prolong this a little, and to end on a less sombre chord, a quote form the great film-director Andrei Tarkovsky:
"...it seems to me that the individual today stands at a crossroad, faced with the choice of whether to pursue the new technology and the endless multiplication of material goods, or to seek out a way that will lead to spiritual responsibility, a way that ultimately might mean not only his personal salvation but also the saving of society at large; in other words, turn to God."