- Paperback: 253 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1st HarperPerennial Ed edition (April 7, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060977582
- ISBN-13: 978-0060977580
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 70 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #228,256 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don't Need Paperback – April 7, 1999
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'"Thick with survey data, less taxing than a saunter through Saks, Schor's study is a scornful indictment of consumerism--which, she argues, has created a nation of debtors but failed to fill a gaping cultural maw. This is the stuff from which revolutions are made." -- "Entertainment Weekly""[A] masterful take on the human folly of overspending."-- "Los Angeles Times Book Review""Engaging...[Schor's] case studies of families who have rejected consumerism and simplified their lifestyles are vivid and will resonate with many readers." -- "Fortune""Schor writes in a lively manner and offers fascinating information about consumer spending patterns. She has written an engaging book that will cause readers to look afresh not only at their society but also at themselves."-- "Philadelphia Inquirer""Offers trenchant commentary on Americans' overspending lifestyle and lack of savings." -- "Publishers Weekly""Consuming more now and enjoying it less? In this heavily researched but accessible work, Schor tells us how and why this is so and what we might do about it...This is an important analysis of who, or perhaps what, we are. It deserves and will surely gain a wide audience." -- "Kirkus Reviews"
About the Author
Juliet B. Schor, bestselling author of The Overworked American and senior lecturer and Director of Studies, Women's Studies, at Harvard University, writes and lectures widely on issues of work and consumption. She lives in Newton, Massachusetts, with her husband and two children.
Top customer reviews
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1- "While I believe all Americans are deeply affected by consumerism, this book is directed to people...whose income afford comfortable lifestyle. I focus on more affluent consumers not because I believe that inequalities of consuming power are unimportant. Far from it. They are at the heart of the problem. But I believe that achieving an equitable standard of living for all Americans will require that those of us with more comfortable material lives transform our relationship to spending. I offer this book as a step in that direction."
2- "This book is about why: About why so many middle-class Americans feel materially dissatisfied...How even a six-figure income can seem inadequate, and why this country saves less than virtually any other nation in the world. It is about the ways in which, for America's middle classes, "spending becomes you," about how it flatters, enhances, and defines people in often wonderful ways, but also how it takes over their lives...IT analyzes how standards of belonging socially have changes in recent decades, and how this change has introduced American to highly intensified spending pressures. And finally, it is about a growing backlash to the consumption culture, a movement of people who are downshifting - by working less, and living their consumer lives much more deliberately."
3- "...Even though products carry well-recognized levels of prestige, are associated with particular kinds of people, or convey widely accepted messages, we cannot automatically infer the motivations of the consumers who buy them...There are other sources of meaning (beyond social inequalities). Gender, ethnicity, personal predisposition, and many other factors help structure the meanings and motivation attached to consuming."
4- "First, for a significant number of branded and highly advertised products, there are no quality differences discernible to consumers when the labels are removed; and second, variation in prices typically exceeds variation in quality, with the difference being in part a status premium...The extra money we spend could arguably be better used in other ways - improving our public schools, boosting retirement savings, or providing drug treatment for the millions of people the country is locking up in an effort to protect commodities others have acquired. But unless we find a way to dissociate what we buy from who we think we are, redirecting those dollars will prove difficult indeed."
5- "Today, in a world where being middle-class is not good enough for many people and indeed that social category seems like an endangered species, securing a place means going upscale. But when everyone is doing it, upscaling can mean simply keeping up. Even when we are aiming high, there's a strong defensive component to our comparisons. We don't want to fall behind or lose the place we've carved out for ourselves."
6- "To maintain psychological comfort, most of us must transcend the strictures of the current consumption map...The first step is to decouple spending from our sense of worth, a connection basic to all hierarchical consumption maps. The second is to find a reference group for whom a low-cost lifestyle is socially acceptable."
7- "I outline nine principles to help individuals, and the nation, get off the consumer escalator...1) Controlling desire...2) Creating a new consumer symbolism: making exclusivity uncool...3) Controlling ourselves: voluntary restraints on competitive consumption...4) Learning to share: both as a borrower and a lender be...5) Deconstruct the Commercial system: Becoming an Educated Consumer...6) Avoid "Retail Therapy": Spending is Addictive...7) Decommercialize the Rituals...8) Making Time: Is work-and-spend working?...9) The need for a coordinate intervention."
8- "It can hardly be possible that the dumbing-down of America has proceeded so far that it's either consumerism or nothing. We remain a creative, resourceful, and caring nation. There's still time left to find our way out of the mall."
Schor's goal is to define the variables that predict overspeading among Americans, and thereby to illuminate why the trend to live beyond our means has increased so rapidly in recent years. Her examinations also suggest a variety of steps we can take to make ourselves happier (since, make no mistake, people who make more money and buy more things are no happier than people of more modest desires). She illustrates the patterns revealed by her studies with a number of anecdotal discussions with Americans of different backgrounds.
Though some of her conclusions may seem like common sense, they represent a great deal of scholarly labor. Schor catalogs research by her colleagues and her students, as well as studies she has completed herself.
Almost any reader would benefit from the time spent with this book.