I wanted to say something about Alex's terminal question about whether there is a link between materialism and our economic system. So much of what is available to buy is dependent upon fantasy and conceit.
If we bought clothing on the basis of utility [as one we did] we'd get by with a couple of pairs of pants, a few shirts, maybe two pairs of shoes and a coat or jacket. And those items would last for years.
If we bought like that now the so-called fashion industry would fall over pdq. But we are induced not to buy on physical utility, rather psychic utility. How we look matters, or so we are told. We have to be fashionable. Pure materialism would trade on functionality and robustness [optimal value for the least effort], but what we have is an exploitative materialism that puts no store by the psychic attributes of being human beyond seeing them as an opportunity to exploit them for profit. Or so it says. Bernardo made a slip of the tongue early on in the chat when he observed that the only purpose of materialism was to accumulate. I got what he meant but at the same time he revealed the fatal flaw in a lot of materialistic thought. That is that it is not actually materialistic at all. It just a screwed up way of seeing the world via displacement and compensatory behaviours. And so long as there is a market for equally screwed up folk it is a way of getting rich, and feeling compensated while fears and angers are displaced. In essence the material world does often serve as a representational medium for psychic states - think keepsakes, mementos, sacred relics, memorabilia and so on. Some things we place personal values on [like keeping letters from old loves], but the commercial sector survives on its ability to induce us to attach to its products through design or marketing. Think a popular vile tasting lolly water that is often marketed as possessing magical or hallucinogenic properties [of course implied only through advertising, not in any actual way]. The old Coke slogan of "Coke adds life" meant what? That carbonated lolly water adds something essential to a situation? That's a metaphysical claim and when we examine marketing there are many metaphysical claims made. Moral materialists would not exploit metaphysical vulnerabilities in customers in order to profit. Moral markets would stop at enough. There is a fundamental difference between a market serving the customer and the customer serving the market. We are in that latter phase. Materialism permits a retreat from a fundamental moral duty of taking no more than is needed. That moral duty existed in the hearts and minds of cultures that operate within the animistic mentality [the world is full of spirits] that assumes a fundamental moral relationship between humans and the reality that embraces them.
I wish Western society had never started down the slippery slope of advertising and image consultants etc. We are fed so many idiotic slogans - such as "Coke adds life" that we don't react with derision as past generations would have.
The problem - which you alluded to - is that more spiritual societies seem to degenerate into rigid and corrupt theocracies.
Is this about materialism vs Dualism/Idealism? My feeling is that there is a tangential link, but maybe no more. A scientist may take a materialist view of the world, and yet be quite un-worldly - mainly interested in his equations. Conversely the ancient Egyptians were very concerned about the after-life and yet kept slaves.