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Affluenza Hardcover – January 25, 2007

3.5 out of 5 stars 13 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: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,681,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
You could sum up most that is of any value in this book with that bon mot from Life's Little Instruction Book: "no-one said, on their deathbed, 'I wish I'd spent more time at the office'."

The first problem, of many, I have with Oliver James' Affluenza is that, for all the weight of scientific research he claims to have done, none of it is advanced in support of the existence of this thing called Affluenza in the first place. James states it as a bare fact - in fact, rather less than that: he includes a questionnaire designed to determine whether you have Affluenza, and then launches into an idiosyncratic monologue of anecdotes which he seems to regard as having the effect of revealing eternal verities.

The questionnaire doesn't give you much chance of not having the disease: answering in the affirmative to any one of the 16 statements he poses (grammarians and lawyers note: it's a disjunctive test) consigns you to infection. Given the statements include such outrages to public decency as "I would like to be admired by many people" and "my life would be better if I owned certain things I don't have now" it is difficult to see who, other than a misanthropic Trappist monk, wouldn't be "infected".

Other than Chet, a diabetic, malnourished, disenfranchised, frequently-mugged, misleadingly youthful-looking, church-going, taxi-driving New York immigrant, whom James has credulously (or, more likely, apocryphally) interviewed in the course of his travels.
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