Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Affluent Society” as Want to Read:
The Affluent Society
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Affluent Society

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  1,481 ratings  ·  79 reviews
Conventional wisdom has it that John Kenneth Galbraith's The Affluent Society spawned the neoliberalism we sse in Bill Clinton, Tony Blair & other world leaders. The economist's prose, lofty but still easily manageable, laid down the gauntlet for the post-cold war class struggle that was still far in the future in '58. He saw the widening gap between the richest & ...more
Paperback, 298 pages
Published October 29th 1970 by Pelican (Harmondsworth) (first published 1958)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Affluent Society, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Affluent Society

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Oh, for fuck's sakes, what the fuck is wrong with you people? Is this a never-ending revival of the Dunciad? This ain't rocket science, for Christ's sakes—we've cottoned a shitload of the green-googly-moogly in the decades since the Great Slump, so why can't we apply the lessons we've learned from this gigantic laissez-faire clusterfuck? Goddamn greedy, overly ripe, crumb-lipped mall-mutts, I'd love to crack your fucking spongiform shells together to let in some oxygen! A progressive system of t ...more
Contrary to the assumptions made in the history of economic theory (from Adam Smith, Ricardo, Mathus and Marx) that the development of the industrial base inevitably leads to the total impoverishment of the working class, we seem to be witnessing quite the opposite. The working classes in the advanced capitalist societies have never had it so good. We now live in an affluent society. Despite the more horrible predictions of these founding fathers of economic theory not coming to pass we have not ...more
Erik Graff
Dec 05, 2014 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: David Schweickart
I read this for the Capitalism/Democracy/Socialism course taught under the aegis of Loyola University Chicago's Philosophy Department in the first semester of 1981/82. The teacher, a Ph.d. in both Philosophy and Mathematics, ran the course as an ongoing debate between three orientations. The first, the free market capitalist, was primarily represented by Milton Friedman. The second, the Keynesian capitalist, was primarily represented by J.K. Galbraith. The third, the market socialist, was primar ...more
Czarny Pies
Nov 22, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History students. This is no longer a defensible thesis.
Recommended to Czarny by: My parents.
Shelves: political-theory
This book published in 1958 was a great manifesto for Lyndon Baines Johnson's Great Society. Galbraith that America was a rich society capable of caring for all its memories. Left to its own, capitalism would simply try to stimulate consumption by the financially privileged through advertising. What was needed was increased taxation of the rich to finance social programs for the poor.

Galbraith's argument was treated with great seriousness by the majority of North Americans throughout the sixitie
Paul Bard

Wikipedia says the thesis of this book is that "the post-World War II United States was becoming wealthy in the private sector but remained poor in the public sector."

"Big deal. What's the point of reading this?" you might ask. In 1969, it WAS a big deal. The question we should be asking is, is it still a big deal, or is this book outdated?

Here's an short version for those who can't wait for the answer:

Galbraith basically suggests that we
Brian Ross
Written in 1958, this book proposed that America had achieved a level of affluence that made core prevailing modes of thought regarding economic and social progress obsolete. Galbraith was a liberal economist who forthrightly stated that the purpose of economic life is greater than for the simple manufacture of ever greater aggregate wealth. That is, he also tackled the issue of how and why poverty persists along beside plenty, and the economic, social and moral consequences of simply accepting ...more
Until the later stages of the industrial revolution, no society had achieved a level of productive capacity sufficient to eliminate privation, or a serious possibility of privation, from the lives of its people. Before that time, scarcity was the unbroken rule of history. That is the world in which Smith, Ricardo, Malthus, and others developed the core conceptual tools of economic analysis. Not surprisingly, in their work, we find that production is the highest goal—for by it alone can the needs ...more
Goodreads The Affluent Society
Galbraith is the creator of the term "conventional wisdom." I picked up this book specifically to read what are still today polemical postulations. He suggests back in good old 1957 that "In the Communist countries stability of ideas and social purpose is achieved by formal adherance to an officially proclaimed doctrine. In our society a similar stability is enforced far more informally by the conventional wisdom." Conventional wisdom being the ability to accept pol
I just finished reading The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith.

It was really the first book I've read that allowed even a fleeting glimpse into the opaque and arcane realm of macro economics. The Affluent Society is a book written in the late fifties mostly in study of America's post WWII economy. It seeks to redefine priorities in a society that clearly has no trouble with the basics of feeding and sheltering itself. As far as books that attempt to shed some light on our economic circum
Terry Clague
I recommend this book as an introduction to economics as well as just being a good read - especially in current "turbulent" times. Starting with a skate through the development of economics - which JKG characterizes as having been born "in a world of poverty and privation" - the book introduced the world to the term "conventional wisdom" (though I've heard a few right of centre economists dispute this) before going on to kick back against the mindless pursuit of "production" (GDP Growth) as an e ...more
I first read this book in 1970 when I was in the Army and I was all of 19. If it was stunning then....what he the edition that I just read ( which is the 40th Anniversary Edition) it is trembling with ideas that quaked to be presented. He writes to be read and understood. I could never cease to be amazed by these individuals who write to be so pleasantly read.
I ....I who hungered to comprehend what was happening around me found solace in writers such as this. Production..Education..St
Dhs Sparrell
Galbraith's _Affluent Society_ is, in a sense, not relevant in 2014, as, in fact, the middle class is disappearing. The premise of the book is that the middle class of America is successful and wealthy, and a key player in the American economy, and in deciding the future of America.

Well, I contend that with a little trivial deconstruction/reconstruction one can apply the principles in _Affluent Society_ to America in the early 21st century.

Galbraith patiently argues against "Conventional Wisdom
Steven Peterson
John Kenneth Galbraith was a liberal economic thinker. This book was one of his best-known works. He argues that the widening gap between richest and poorest citizens threatened economic stability. He made suggestions as to how this might be addressed. Some of his predictions turned out to be dead wrong. Nonetheless, his analysis, though somewhat dated, addresses some long-term issues that still bedevil us.
John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society explores affluence in America. He challenges many prevailing views on economics including economic security and production, as well as marginal utility and consumer demand. Galbraith suggests that consumer demand isn’t one sided: i.e. production is simple response to demand. Rather, Galbraith suggests that advertising and consumer demand are inseparable. Furthermore, he analyzes the relationship between consumer spending, debt, the economy, inflation ...more
My first book for Galbraith, and while I haven't had much readings into macro economics, I found his approach simple enough; the book starts with a brief introduction to what he calls "Conventional Wisdom", mainly meaning the reigning economic theories, leading the reader to the main issues of his essay: how the power of production and the discrimination between private and public production has come to shape everything about the capitalist system.
To sum up his critique, he refers to the condit
This book was on Newsweek's list of the top 100 books, which I am currently reading through. I don't have much of an interest in reading about economics, which accounts for a mere three stars in this review, but as far as economics goes, The Affluent Society was well-written and easy to read and contained quite a bit of interesting information, even if I didn't always agree with the author. In some ways it seems he really has a handle on the post WWII economic society in America, not only at the ...more
Nick Klagge
It's been a little while since I actually finished this book, so I'm not quite as fresh as I should be. I enjoyed reading it, and there are some aspects that have stuck with me. JKG's main topic of interest here is similar to Bill McKibben's in "Deep Economy"--capitalist economic organization was hugely successful in bringing masses of people out of poverty, but to what extent is it still appropriate for an affluent society? Several points to highlight:

-Economics generally takes individual utili
This book is as important when Galbraith first published it. A giant of a man - 6'9"!! - Galbraith still towers over a humane, practical and honest stream of economic thinking and writing.

Arguing that conventional economic thought was not only the child but the captive of a time when scarcity was an everyday reality for most of the European and American 'world', he puts an elegant but passionate case for looking at things as they actually are, rather than as theorists insist that they must be,
This ought to be required reading for ANY economics major of an American university. Galbraith rails against a conventional wisdom that emphasizes a model designed to maximize the production of private goods. In language that borders on the poetic, Galbraith illustrates how this drive has led us to focus all our energies on the production and consumption of goods that we don't need and the total neglect of those public goods (such as health care, education, and environmental stewardship) that ar ...more
Oliver Bateman
Paul Krugman called the Canadian agricultural economist (and University of Toronto alum!) J. K. Galbraith a "policy entrepreneur," and that assessment seems about right to me. Galbraith was good at several things: Being tall (he was almost 6'10"), turning phrases (he gave us "the conventional wisdom" and a host of memorable epigrams), and making strong arguments for vague government programs and interventions (although he defends this tendency in TAS: "Since these achievements are not easily mea ...more
Jan 12, 2014 Danielle added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Andrew Blackburn or my Dad maybe
Recommended to Danielle by: Karen Silva

HOLY COW I FINALLY FINISHED! This took forever for multiple reasons. But first things first, if you are looking for a book to be your first venture into economics, this isn't it. Well, he wasn't a good match for me at least.I felt like I might as well have been reading sentences with continuous use of double negatives. I often found myself re-reading a sentence about 5 times to understand what he was saying. Not to mention the frequent use of Latin phrases and words no one uses any more. And usu
This book changed my perspective more than any other I've ever read, and continues to shape my political beliefs on a daily basis. That really is not an overstatement once you come to understand how little changes in "conventional wisdom" in the USA over more than 60 years since John Kenneth Galbraith wrote this book.
His creation of the idea of "Conventional Wisdom" in the first few chapters alone would make this a classic, but it is the economic and political vision set out over the full text w
This book didn't knock my socks off at all times but it is definitely full of incredibly useful information, insight, and analysis. The density of ideas here is pretty high which is always a plus when reading a book and I am particularly amazed at the prescience of many of the ideas in the book.

The occasional wit or snark breaks up the seriousness of an admittedly serious topic but I think Galbraith used it judiciously and effectively.

One of his most interesting theories was actually reminiscent
Apr 02, 2007 Jeffrey rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Economics Nerds
After his death, the remains of Galbraith, his ideas, were desecrated by Conservatives as wrong, evil, or silly, especially the latter. For Conservatives, who have "won" the last three decades of the economic debate in the United States, Galbraith could be reduced to a nice man with misguided ideas; he was something of a child. Look around: private enterprise--the "ownership society"--is rooted in the post-war U.S. psyche and the ideas have been exported, along with a neoliberal, race-to-the-bot ...more
Snehal Bhagat
Most development indicators point to the increasing affluence of peoples across the world. Most of these indicators are also derivatives of the GDP, so that at a social level, production has itself become the most basic criteria for evaluating collective achievement, and its growth a national obsession.

At the individual level, this has allowed the machinations of private enterprise to translate the lofty ideal- that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human right- to the base notion that
Galbraith wrote this entire book as a protest against the growth economy, as if it was an economic law that once men's most basic material desires are met, they are fed, clothed and housed, then their fundamental purposes in life have been fulfilled. He therefore assumes that any material consumption beyond this base level is unnatural and is created somehow by forces extrinsic to the individual, moreover this consumption is a historical aberration that is being fostered by erroneous attitudes a ...more
This was good, though very dense. This guy is a big thinker and I could only scratch the surface. Things I liked though was the glimpse into the history of economic thought (1960s). He coined the phrase conventional wisdom and had some very cool ideas of how economic thought is proved wrong not by new ideas but by changing events. His example was Keynesian thought becoming the new convential wisdom after the last depression. It makes you wonder what new ideas will come out of this depression.


La primera parte del ensayo recorre la historia del pensamiento económico desde Smith y David Ricardo hasta el siglo XX. Dicho recorrido es crítico, sintético y brillante. Seguidamente da un repaso a las contradicciones en las que un sistema económico como el capitalismo americano de los años 50 sufre de forma crónica: Consumismo, Publicidad superflua, Obsesión por la producción ect.
Hasta ahí el ensayo de forma expositiva parece brillante y supongo que novedosa para la época.
El aburrimiento y e
Apparition et développement de l'idée de "sagesse populaire". Développement de plusieurs idées économiques aujourd'hui classique, "The Affluent Society" reste un classique même après tant d'années.

Cela dit, ce n'est pas une lecture facile, c'est un livre dense avec un niveau d'anglais soutenu qui demande beaucoup de réflexion...
This book is widely credited with popularizing the term "conventional wisdom" to describe the dominant theory or popular opinion. Galbraith argues that traditional economic theory the "central tradition" does not accurately model the economy of an affluent society having been developed in a time when poverty was much more prevalent. He also argues that using the production of an economy as the measure of success doesn't sufficiently take into consideration the differences in the items produced o ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money
  • The Theory of the Leisure Class (Modern Library Classics)
  • Religion and the Rise of Capitalism
  • Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy
  • White Collar: The American Middle Classes
  • Debunking Economics - Revised and Expanded Edition: The Naked Emperor Dethroned?
  • The Promise of American Life
  • The Liberal Imagination: Essays on Literature and Society
  • The Taming Of Chance (Ideas in Context)
  • The Strange Death of Liberal England
  • The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too
  • The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time
  • The Economics Anti-Textbook: A Critical Thinker's Guide to Microeconomics
  • The Autobiography of William Butler Yeats
  • An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy
  • Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us
  • The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community
  • Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War
John Kenneth Galbraith (10/15/1908–4/29/2006) was a Canadian-American economist. He was a Keynesian & an institutionalist, a leading proponent of 20th-century American liberalism & democratic socialism. His books on economic topics were bestsellers in the '50s & '60s. A prolific author, he produced four dozen books & over a 1000 articles on many subjects. Among his most famous work ...more
More about John Kenneth Galbraith...
The Great Crash of 1929 A Short History of Financial Euphoria  The New Industrial State (James Madison Library in American Politics) A History of Economics: The Past as the Present The Age of Uncertainty

Share This Book

“Wealth is not without its advantages and the case to the contrary, although it has often been made, has never proved widely persuasive. ” 11 likes
“The shortcomings of economics are not original error but uncorrected obsolescence. The obsolescence has occurred because what is convenient has become sacrosanct. Anyone who attacks such ideas must seem to be a trifle self-confident and even aggressive. The man who makes his entry by leaning against an infirm door gets an unjustified reputation for violence. Something is to be attributed to the poor state of the door.” 2 likes
More quotes…