the individual in the chains of illusion

The loss of hope and the increasing brutalization are, unfortu­nately, not the only evils that have befallen Western civilization since 1914. Another cause for the deterioration of Western civilization is connected precisely with its greatest achievements. The industrial rev­olution has led to a degree of material production which has given the vast majority of the peoples of the West a standard of living which would have seemed unthinkable to most observers a hundred years ago. However, the satisfaction of real and legitimate needs has changed into the creation and satisfaction of a powerful drive, namely, “commodity hunger.” Just as depressed individuals often are seized by a compelling desire to buy things or in other cases to eat, modern man has a greedy hunger for possessing and using new things, a hunger which he rationalizes as an expression of his wish for a bet­ter life. He claims that the things he buys, if they are not directly enriching to life, help him to save time. Yet he does not know what to do with the time he saves, and spends one part of his income to kill the time he is so proud of having saved.
—  Erich Fromm, The Individual in the Chains of Illusion