Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-19, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 23 January, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2019.


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core definition

Materialistic refers to someone who adopts a materialistic perspective, most often in modern times someone whose focus is on material goods, as opposed to a proponent of materialism as a philosophy.

explanatory context

Materialistic is a term that, in modern usage, has developed a number of polemical meanings. These meanings have historical links to materialism, which is a philosophical position, but their current meanings owe nothing to contemporary philosophical debate. The confusion arises as the term materialist is used to refer both to someone who is a proponent of materialism and to someone who is materialistic.


Materialistic (as a non-philospohical referent) tends to mean selfish or greedy. This is usually compared to one meaning of idealistic, that of altruism or unselfishness.


A second meaning which generalises from the first is the notion of a materialistic person as having no moral or social scruples and as being totally self-seeking.


A third meaning of materialistic is that of a view point which regards the world in terms of material objects, rather than ideals, emotions or concepts. In effect this is a distortion and degredation of materialism as a philosophy.


A fourth meaning is the particularisation of the third, which applies this objectification to a view of life in which aquisition of material wealth becomes the primary goal. A materialist in this sense is someone who sets store by the ownership of material objects.

analytical review

associated issues


related areas

See also



copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2019


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