[Marxism] The Challenge of Affluence

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Feb 19 11:54:38 MST 2007


The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United 
States and Britain since 1950 (Hardcover)
by Avner Offer

amazon.com Book Description
Since the 1940s Americans and Britons have come to enjoy an era of rising 
material abundance. Yet this has been accompanied by a range of social and 
personal disorders, including family breakdown, addiction, mental 
instability, crime, obesity, inequality, economic insecurity, and declining 
trust. Avner Offer argues that well-being has lagged behind affluence in 
these societies, because they present an environment in which consistent 
choices are difficult to achieve over different time ranges and in which 
the capacity for personal and social commitment is undermined by the flow 
of novelty. His approach draws on economics and social science, makes use 
of the latest cognitive research, and provides a detailed and reasoned 
critique of modern consumer society, especially the assumption that freedom 
of choice necessarily maximizes individual and social well-being. The book 
falls into three parts. Part one analyses the ways in which economic 
resources map on to human welfare, why choice is so intractable, and how 
commitment to people and institutions is sustained. It argues that choice 
is constrained by prior obligation and reciprocity. The second section then 
applies these conceptual arguments to comparative empirical studies of 
advertising, of eating and obesity, and of the production and acquisition 
of appliances and automobiles. Finally, in part three, Offer investigates 
social and personal relations in the USA and Britain, including 
inter-personal regard, the rewards and reversals of status, the social and 
psychological costs of inequality, and the challenges posed to heterosexual 
love and to parenthood by the rise of affluence.

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