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Capitalism and the Concept of Good Life



Everybody wants to live a good life, right? One could even consider living well to be the meaning of life. But what exactly is “good life”? Well, it can be measured in many ways, but one thing these measurements almost always have in common is that they take one’s income and wealth into consideration. When measuring the wellbeing of the citizens of a certain country, the country’s GDP is always considered a key factor. But does a good life really need to involve money? To a certain extent, yes. Living well, or even just living can be extremely difficult if one has no money for food, water or housing. But once these basic needs are met, is it really necessary to keep earning more and more money? 

A high salary is often associated with a high standard of living. This involves spending a lot of money on different products and services. Furthermore, large amounts of money is associated with wellbeing, because material goods are seen as something that is needed for a good life. In today’s world, money and materialism in general are very closely linked with happiness and are sometimes even considered the main cause of it. This, however, is quite a dangerous thought the capitalist economic system enforces to get us to buy more products. Though some money is needed in order to live well, it is important to remember that wellbeing mostly comes from other things.

A Finnish sociologist called Erik Allardt proposed an idea that a good life consists of three aspects: having, loving and being. The having aspect includes the things that I’ve been talking about in this article, for example wealth and material possessions. Just as important, however, are the two other aspects. The loving aspect is quite self explanatory. It consists of one’s relationships with their family, friends, neighbours, co-workers and everyone else they know. It also includes the love of nature and non-human beings. The being aspect means one’s will to realise their full potential through for example art, sports or meaningful work that the person truly enjoys doing. Not one of these aspects is more important than the other and all need to be realised in order to truly have a good life.

It happens too often, that people only consider the having aspect worth aiming for. This can lead to for example someone keeping a job they do not enjoy just because it pays well, and they want to be able to buy more things to become happier. Again, capitalists very much encourage this line of thinking and want us to believe that our life will become better if we buy more, when in reality they want to make more money themselves. But if we forget the loving and being aspects while only focusing on the having one, our happiness will always be incomplete.

I understand that sometimes you just have to keep a job you really do not enjoy doing, because if you lose it you cannot afford to buy basic necessities anymore. But if you are in a situation in which you can maybe work less hours or even change jobs, it is worth asking whether the loving and being aspects of your life are sufficiently taken care of. Could you perhaps spend some less time on the having aspect and instead some more time on the two other ones? Which truly is more important, a good life or owning nice products? These are questions I believe everyone should ask themselves at some point of their life and at least for me, they are very easy to answer.