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Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic Paperback – August 9, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 1st Edition edition (August 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576751996
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576751992
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,193,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In their eye-opening, soul-prodding look at the excess of American society, the authors of Affluenza include two quotations that encapsulate much of the book: T.S. Eliot's line "We are the hollow men / We are the stuffed men," which opens one of this book's chapters, and a quote from a newspaper article that notes "We are a nation that shouts at a microwave oven to hurry up." If these observations make you grimace at your own ruthless consumption or sigh at the hurried pace of your life, you may already be ill. Read on.

The definition of affluenza, according to de Graaf, Wann, and Naylor, is something akin to "a painful, contagious, socially-transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more." It's a powerful virus running rampant in our society, infecting our souls, affecting our wallets and financial well-being, and threatening to destroy not only the environment but also our families and communities. Having begun life as two PBS programs coproduced by de Graaf, this book takes a hard look at the symptoms of affluenza, the history of its development into an epidemic, and the options for treatment. In examining this pervasive disease in an age when "the urge to splurge continues to surge," the first section is the book's most provocative. According to figures the authors quote and expound upon, Americans each spend more than $21,000 per year on consumer goods, our average rate of saving has fallen from about 10 percent of our income in 1980 to zero in 2000, our credit card indebtedness tripled in the 1990s, more people are filing for bankruptcy each year than graduate from college, and we spend more for trash bags than 90 of the world's 210 countries spend for everything. "To live, we buy," explain the authors--everything from food and good sex to religion and recreation--all the while squelching our intrinsic curiosity, self-motivation, and creativity. They offer historical, political, and socioeconomic reasons that affluenza has taken such strong root in our society, and in the final section, offer practical ideas for change. These use the intriguing stories of those who have already opted for simpler living and who are creatively combating the disease, from making simple habit alterations to taking more in-depth environmental considerations, and from living lightly to managing wealth responsibly.

Many books make you think the author has crammed everything he or she knows into it. The feeling you get reading Affluenza is quite different; the authors appear well-read, well-rounded, and intelligent, knowledgeable beyond the content of their book but smart enough to realize that we need a short, sharp jolt to recognize our current ailment. It's a well-worn cliché that money can't buy happiness, but this book will strike a chord with anyone who realizes that more time is more valuable than toys, and that our relentless quest for the latest stuff is breeding sick individuals and sick societies. Affluenza is, in fact, a clarion call for those interested in being part of the solution. --S. Ketchum --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

De Graaf, producer of the PBS documentaries Affluenza (1996) and Escape from Affluenza (1998); David Wann, a former EPA staffer and expert on sustainable lifestyles; and Thomas H. Naylor, professor emeritus in economics at Duke, have assembled an updated and more in-depth look at the epidemic of overconsumption sweeping the United States and the rest of the world, based on de Graaf's documentaries. They define "affluenza" as "a painful, contagious, socially-transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more" and examine the spiraling cycle of overconsumption, spending, stress, and broken relationships caused by America's obsession with uncontrolled economic growth at any cost. This witty yet hard-hitting book provides evidence of the social problems caused by the American obsession with acquiring "stuff" and proposes solutions for living more sustainably. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries. Mark Bay, Indiana Univ.
Purdue Univ. Lib., Indianapolis
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I liked the small cartoon stips and reading the facts throughout the book.
A Customer
In that vain, this book will help you come to realizations about how little you really need in terms of consumer goods to make you happy.
The Great Guldna
This book addresses the symptoms, the causes and the treatment for AFFLUENZA - a "disease" resulting from overconsumption.
L.A. in CA

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

170 of 177 people found the following review helpful By Hope Marston on June 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
It's hard sometimes to live a simple life surrounded by "affluenza" and its effects. So for me, the book "Affluenza" has been really helpful in reminding me what's important in my life - it's not the "stuff." It's my life that I value. It's not all that's advertised to make me hungry for what I don't want. It's remembering what I do want in my life, and prioritizing that above those tantalizing baubles that are offered over and over again to deplete my bank account - to put me in debt - to put me in slavery to my possessions.
So, thank the authors for writing this important book that reminds me again and again who I am and why I have chosen to step back from all the glitter and acquisition. It reminds me why I work a 30 hour week, instead of a 40 hour week, and why I even hope to pare that down to a 25 hour week - so that the rest of my time can be spent on my life!
I like it that "Affluenza" isn't preachy or grim. It's light and humorous. It's fast-paced, like a television program - only without commercials. It's stock full of information about how we got to this place where money and things outweigh time with our families and time volunteering to make our communities stronger. And it gives examples and ideas about how to move forward into a place where each of us can get out of debt, and shift our priorities to what we truly value in this life that we only get to live one time.
David Horsey's cartoons are right on the money. They're witty and apt. The writing is visual and well-paced. Can you tell - I like this book! And it couldn't have come at a better time. A lot of us need to see its message. As for me, it's one of those books that I'll keep around to refer to when I feel particularly plagued by the lure of keeping up with any Joneses.
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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By M. Keller on May 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
Although it's been some months since I finished "Affluenza," the book has stayed with me (and hasn't at the same time: I've loaned it to many appreciative friends). One of its most significant effects was helping me achieve what no financial planning book before it had: for the first time in the decade since leaving college, I've completely paid off my credit card debt. How did "Affluenza" help me do that? Well, if you read "Fast Food Nation" and thought you'd never want another to eat another Quarter Pounder again, you'll be able to relate; what Schlosser does for McDonald's, De Graff and Co. do for the mall. In a clear, straightforward fashion, "Affluenza" looks at the paralyzing effects the fever to consume brings upon us and offers simple strategies to start curbing the disease at its core -- even if that's just by forcing you to ask yourself, "Do I really need this?" before your next purchase.
Contrary to some of the reviews, I didn't find the book to be preachy or pedantic; actually, it was the book's common sense approach to the suffocating realities of our consumer society that made it so easy, in the months that followed finishing the book, to start spending sensibly, when at all. Armed with a new skepticism as to whether happiness was just one more swipe of the credit card away, I was able to put items back, turn deals down, and walk away with my money still in my pocket -- never once regretting the decision NOT to buy, in marked contrast to the many times I felt a hollow dread after dragging home another piece of crap to take its place atop the heap of crap bought before it (just like the book's cover).
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120 of 133 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Sure, I've heard about the disappearing rainforests and the many species of animals and plants becoming endangered or extinct, but that doesn't really have anything to do with me, I live in America, the most affluent country in the history of the world. Yes, there are some problems with industrial pollution and other environmental issues but not in my community and besides that's the concern of all those 'environmentalists.' I can go to the mall to buy anything I want as long as I have a credit card, and life is good.
Not so fast! It's time to stop and think about what is really happening to us. How many Americans are working in jobs that don't energize them? How many spend hours every week shopping and commuting, but only minutes with their kids or their friends? How many feel 'used up' by a glitzy, gaudy American Dream? The book Affluenza is common ground for many victims who toss and turn, trying to wake up from a value system in which people are too often treated like machines, and machines are too often treated like people. If a million Americans read this book, we may have a shot at moving beyond the short-term illusion many call 'success.' The book offers welcome news that the Joneses have surrendered! Standing on their front porch, they plead, 'Please don't try to keep up with us anymore!' What a concept - that we might be able to cooperate with and support the Joneses, rather than compete with them...
Do we have a good thing going, or a good thing going bad? The fact is, beating affluenza is not about 'giving up' the good life, but getting it back. The strength of this book is that it successfully presents critical information on the anthropology and psychology of America without stripping the reader of hope.
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