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The Affluent Society Paperback – October 15, 1998
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"With his customary clarity, eloquence, and humor, Galbraith cuts to the heart of what economic security means (and doesn't mean) in today's world and lays bare the hazards of complacency about economic inequity." The New York Times
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Galbraith starts the book off by reviewing how many early economic ideas were created in periods of scarcity, and that the notion of scarcity may not appropriate for today's age of mass affluence. Those with vested interests in production (i.e. large businesses) still cling to the "conventional wisdom" that increased production equals progress, even though goods are now abundant and our basic material needs have been satisfied. To stimulate further demand, corporations must resort to salesmanship and advertising. If advertising stopped, demand would fall, production would drop, and unemployment would rise; thus, business continue to focus on increasing production to ensure their own survival.
There are other threats to production. Economic cycles may result in a depression. Poorly managed firms may have to lay off workers. As a result, people -- and especially politicians --focus on economic growth to avoid these insecurities. Growth is something that both the rich and poor will vote for, since they both want to keep their jobs and acquire more goods. Growing out of a recession also seems promising. The net result is that society as a whole focuses on increasing production by private industry.
Next, Galbraith shifts his view from private industry to the public sector. He does this by introducing the idea of social balance, which asserts that as private spending increases, public spending should increase to match. For example, if factories build more cars, more money needs to be invested in public roads.Read more ›
Mr. Galbraith takes a look back at the evolution of economics starting with the early belief that the average worker would always earn just enough to survive and perhaps raise a family. Later Herbert Spencer expounded his Social Darwinian view of economics that has shown a resurgence in the last few decades. The original view was that social programs literally allow inferior genetic lines to procreate and dilute society. It was the collapse of the stock market in the 1930's that put Social Darwinism on the back burner. Although Marx correctly predicted the collapse, the economy recovered and the increasing disparity never created a revolution in the United States. This, however, may have been thanks to the many wealth redistribution programs created after the Great Depression. The author also points out that there is more of a physical separation between the economic strata's and ostentatious displays of wealth have become at best passé at worst vulgar.
The book punches a hole in the theory that productivity declines as worker security increases. One need only look at the dramatic rise in both production and security after World War II. As Mr. Galbraith points out it's always the OTHER guy who should give up security.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A very erudite and perceptive economic and social commentator (his books are a pleasure to read) he is nevertheless wrong and provably wrong on his main thesis. Read morePublished 7 months ago by pearl
A Socialist conglomeration of hypocrisy and contradictions. Galbraith believes, like Obama, Clinton, all of their Administrations', as well as most of the Democrat Party believe... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Prudent Man
Galbraith a genius, an eloquent master craftsman of the English language and clear-headed analyst of the preposterous myths of American capitalism.Published 13 months ago by Liznola
Galbraith was a public intellectual of a generation that I missed. I had previously read his book on the crash of 1929 and enjoyed his clear, concise writing style which sometimes... Read morePublished on September 18, 2013 by J. Edgar Mihelic
First published in the mid 1950s, Galbraith became one of the first to explore the possible significance of the break through sported by Keynes and his General Theory of two... Read morePublished on October 8, 2012 by Timothy K. Fitzgerald
I wish I'd discovered this guy's writing during his lifetime. What's striking is that economic and political thought still hasn't come close to acknowledging what was already... Read morePublished on March 20, 2012 by J. Strauss
John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) was a Canadian-American economist, who taught at Harvard University, served as U.S. Read morePublished on March 5, 2012 by Steven H Propp