There is still time to control our competitive urges

SOCIETY UNDER PRESSURE

THE PROBLEMS outlined in this report go back further than the nightmare that was Margaret Thatcher with her emphasis on the individual. Their origins are in the 1950s, when we were already getting richer without showing signs of being any happier.

Why are we so much more depressed despite being richer? The major causes are the collapse of intimate attachments and changing work patterns.

The outward winners in our society, who have material wealth and good jobs, end up feeling like losers in their inner life because they are made to feel they are not achieving a high enough status.

The key problem is that we tend to compare ourselves to others all the time.

The pursuit of individualism has become more prized than the pursuit of collectivism, but it has been hijacked by consumerism. The way we seek to be individuals is by buying things, and it is not just the latest Nike trainers or Prada bag, it is about services like education. You need to be able to show everyone that you can afford to buy certain things which will reinforce your status.

The other great mantra of the moment is "wannabeism" where people want to be something they are not, or have something they lack.

Everyone is constantly dissatisfied and feels they are entitled to more, then they think it is essential for their well-being to have more. And because they can't have it, they feel like a failure.

They blame themselves and say they must work even harder to make more money to buy more things. All this leads to depression and overwork and the destruction of relationships, making us even more depressed.

It is a vicious circle but it can be broken if we adopt a more Scandinavian attitude to society. Britain has adopted the US notion of capitalism which is basically selfish capitalism. In every country that has followed this route, levels of crime, mental illness and depression are rocketing.

But in Scandinavia they have a notion of co-operative capitalism, which works to avoid inequality. They have simply not allowed capitalism to destroy people's relationships with each other and their children.

They have done this by state intervention and a regulated economy. People do not have to work such long hours, and there is greater emphasis on home life and childcare. Their maternity and paternity deals are much more generous and those with real problems are looked after. The Government needs to realise this is the way forward.

Oliver James is author of "Britain on the Couch"

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project