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The Affluent Society Paperback – 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395925002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395925003
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 299 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #459,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Carter on Aug. 29 2001
Format: Paperback
If you agree with Galbraith's notions on economics you may find this a seminal work. If you disagree with him you will no where find a better spar for your own ideas. (Friedman spent an entire book analyzing Galbraith) Love it or hate it The Affluent Society looms large in American economic thought of the 20th century. The book itself is dedicated primarily to re-assessing the role of production in an economy of increasing affluence. Economics long ago acquired the unhappy designation as "the dismal science." This was derived from the observation by all famous early economists that economic life for the masses was inevitably harsh. Ricardo, Smith, and Marx all agreed that while a minority might enjoy abundance the majority were doomed to struggle for their very economic survival. As early as the 1950s Galbraith made the very simple point that the economic prospects of the masses are no longer dark. The average worker could (and still does) expect reasonable wages, a constant supply of luxury goods, and free time to enjoy these things. The modern economy is no longer a battle for simple survival but rather one over what an individual's share of excess production should be. Some reviewers have commented that the specifics in The Affluent Society have become dated. Indeed automotive tail-fins are no longer the common automotive add-on they once were, but the underlying questions remain valid. In the economy of 150 years ago to claim that suffering was inevitable seemed fair, for it was the state of the masses. In the economy of the present where economic deprivation is no longer the norm, to claim some must suffer while the majority live in relative affluence suddenly appears cruel.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
The Affluent Society is probably not read anymore, and for good reason, because it doesn't have a great deal to say today. It is an "intervention," as the leftists like to say, and it doesn't translate very well to very different circumstances. Just for that reason, it is a snapshot of a particularly interesting time, the late 50's, in American history. What is most interesting about the book is the aristocratic disdain he holds for large gas grills, tail fins, televisions, and advertising. The idea that growth is not organic or spontaneous but generated by advertising--the book was written at about the same time as Vance Packard was big--is repugnant to Galbraith. How frivolous! Or even worse, how trivial. Because Galbraith was part of the strategic air command and was involved in the bombing of cities in WWII, he was intimately familiar with the consequences of that campaign, and he tells a story about how production actually increased after the bombing because all the people engaged in services, like waiters and housecleaners and barbers, went into production after the city had been destroyed. (Albert Speer, who organized that production, recalls meeting his American counterpart after the war and being very impressed with his professionalism. Speer and Galbraith are very similar, no the least in their relationships with charismatic leaders.) Galbraith does not argue, as one would expect, that quality of life is largely divorced from "production"--he is all for production, so long as it involves food, housing, steel, and other essentials. What he notes, instead, is that life went on as before after all the superfluities were stripped away. If only the masses were not so stupid!Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
I just finished this book less than an hour ago, and already much of it is slipping from my mind. Considered a classic by many in today's world, as a trumpeted 40th anniversary reprint suggested, I always wanted to give this one a twirl to see what all the fuss was about. I was for the most part underwhelmed. This may be due in some part to the fact that most of the text is unchanged from its first printing in 1958. Since many of these ideas and theories have become the norm since I was born in 1970, it's a little difficult to see them as novel. It isn't difficult to see that many of Galbraith's conclusions are failures or completely unworkable.
The book begins by laying out the idea of conventional wisdom, a term which Galbraith apparently coined, and which he crows about in his new introduction. Conventional wisdom, to Galbraith, is the big, burly force that blocks progress. Those in the know wrap themselves in the flag of conventional wisdom and refuse to acknowledge new ideas that might intrude upon their blissful solitude. Needless to say, Galbraith spends the rest of the book intruding. We get a history of economic thought from Adam Smith through David Ricardo, to Thorstein Veblen. Of course, Marx gets a chapter all to himself. Galbraith shows how their rather depressing view of the world always places the poor in the "poor house" so to speak, and is the basis for economic thought even in today's decidely less dismal world of affluence (hence the title). Galbraith proceeds to show how inflation, consumerism and poor public resources all stem from our dependence on production. In Galbraith's world, production is a roaring, runaway train that plows over everything it sees and leaves destruction in its wake.
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