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Affluenza Hardcover – January 25, 2007

12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A wonderfully clear and cogent thesis.” –Guardian

“Should be mandatory reading for everyone.” –Will Self

From the Trade Paperback edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Oliver James trained and practised as a child clinical psychologist and, since 1987, has worked as a writer, journalist and television documentary producer and presenter. His books include Juvenile Violence in a Winner-Loser Culture, the bestselling They F*** You Up and Britain on the Couch, which was also a successful documentary series for Channel 4. He is a trustee of two children's charities: the National Family and Parenting Institute and Homestart.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vermilion; 1st ed edition (January 25, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091900107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091900106
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,326,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Tim Burness on February 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As someone who basically agrees with almost everything in this book, I am biased in its favour. On the other hand, one wonders whether it will only be "preaching to the converted" or maybe reduced to a conversation piece in middle-class circles. Psychologist Oliver James occasionally comes across as suffering from "affluenza" himself, a few too many references to his own success perhaps? But to be fair his style is also honest, self-effacing and funny in places. Someone in his well-connected position (a bit of a media figure, consultant to senior UK politicians and so on) writing a book like this has to be a good thing. It is surely better than no-one saying anything while people slowly drown in a sea of unchallenged, materialistic, individualism.

The essential message deserves to be taken very very seriously. The author's focus is on why so many people in English-speaking countries (such as America, England, Australia but not so much New Zealand) are experiencing higher rates of personal unhappiness than they were 30 years ago. According to James, this is the result of placing a high value on money, possessions, physical and social appearances, and fame. By contrast, countries such as Denmark and Holland have a less selfish version of capitalism and so are generally happier. Along the way there are entertaining interviews, some interesting psychological insights, suggestions on parenthood, and analyses of different cultures. I found the section on China's economic development particularly interesting.

There are three parts: The Virus, The Vaccines (basically some sensible self-help suggestions) and Wakey Wakey!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Brianton on March 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This work looks at the growing wealth of the west and the growing rates of depression and anxiety that accompany it. James brings his arguments togther thoughtfully and the book is well constructed.

I am not sure about his basic political arguments, but I am convinced about his personal statements. We need to look seriously at the way we are living, turn down the noise of advertising and begin to chart our own course.

The messages, we are recieving about consumption are leading to us to drained and anxious society. We need, as individuals, to rethink our lifes and work out where we want to head.

A very interesting work from a thoughtful man.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By The Spinozanator VINE VOICE on January 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
My opinion of this book is just that - total opinion. But that's fair, considering that the book itself is opinion. James offers very little documentation. The author asserts:

*There is an increase in unhappiness in Western Countries.

*Denmark is less unequal, has better socialization, and people are happier.

*The cause is rampant capitalism. We are even taught in schools (in so many word) to become good little consumers and producers.

*blah blah blah blah

But James has a point - many of the frustrations of living today we didn't have 50 years ago (or ever). That doesn't mean you can create an epidemiologic study that will reliably establish causes and effects. That would be no easier than forecasting the weather beyond a few days - there are too many variables.

Happiness is a very individual, elusive, and hard-to-pin-down combination of emotions. There is much evidence that genetics governs the biochemistry that controls a person's general outlook - perhaps realistically thought of as one's "happiness thermostat." Some studies confirm that after good or bad life-changing events, people tend to eventually (sooner rather than later) return to their inherent steady state level of happiness. Nurture, on the other hand, is judged much more influential about learned behaviors such as personal habits - and good ones are bound to benefit one's happiness.

Our general level of happiness on a day to day basis is more likely to suffer from nitpicky, seemingly insignificant irritants rather than how generally well off we are otherwise.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sirin on February 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Many people will roll their eyes at Oliver James's first two case studies: he compares the case of Sam, a billionaire New Yorker who lives in a five floor (one bedroom) appartment in Manhattan, sleeps with perfect Russian models that are specially procured for him and is miserable, with that of Chet - an amiable, Nigerian taxi driver living in the same city, earning a thousand times Sam's income, frequently assaulted by his passengers and with long term health problems. Chet, for all this, is happier than Sam.

As a well known actress once remarked, I've been poor and miserable and rich and miserable, rich is better. Is it? James chronicles the lives of a number of people living in what he terms 'selfish capitalist' countries - the USA, the UK and Australia who despite their vast reserves of wealth compared to most of the world's population, suffer from mental anquish of some sort.

He undoubtedly has a case. So many of my friends and colleagues in London are doing jobs they intrinsically hate just because of the money (i.e banking) or status (i.e publishing) attached to them. The happiest people, are those who monitor their intrinsic emotional state and shape their lives around things are important to them - work that absorbs them, hobbies, family life.

James also points out that the affluenza virus is rife. But we hardly needed him to tell us that. Posters, billboards, glossy pictures: in the newspapers, on public transport, on television and amongst our political classes who constantly assail us with exhortions to achieve, and sieze opportunity.
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