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The Affluent Society

3.98  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,784 Ratings  ·  89 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)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 03, 2011 Szplug rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada-eh
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
Aug 03, 2011 Trevor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bother! I thought I had already written most of this review, but no, I must toil and type to lay it out here in black and white.

Galbraith's book is a slightly awkward subject, written in 1958, went through four editions before the revised version that fell into my hands. I wonder if he was prescient for 1958, for example in the role of debt in sustaining a consumer society, or simply astute when it came to updating each edition?

It is an elegantly written essay, slightly too elegant with it's swa
Erik Graff
Feb 07, 2016 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  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
Feb 24, 2016 Czarny Pies rated it really liked it  ·  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 argued that America was a rich society capable of caring for all its members. 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 s
Aug 23, 2016 Pink rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, society
So I kind of agree with what Galbraith has to say, but it doesn't read so easily. It felt more like a piece of social science academia, than a non-fiction book. If you're okay with that, then it's an insightful look at economics and capitalism, from a 1950s American viewpoint.
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
Apr 15, 2012 Jeff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
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
Jun 16, 2012 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Terry Clague
Jul 21, 2010 Terry Clague rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 04, 2014 Ronnie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 29, 2014 Dhs Sparrell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 08, 2015 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is well written and has extraordinary explanatory power. Galbraith speaks about our culture's economic priorities within the context of historical economic theories and critiques the logic and accepted ideas that create these priorities. Worthwhile and thought-provoking.
Steven Peterson
Apr 21, 2010 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
This is a well written book on economics that has points in this book that apply to the present day.

Some parts of it do not work with our present situation. For example he talks of an inflationary spiral. A company increases the price of its products, which means higher profits, which allows unions to demand a greater share of those profits, which means more disposable income to buy more higher priced products and so on. So much stuff is made in China and sold by big box retail, and unions barel
Krishna Kumar
May 03, 2015 Krishna Kumar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the classic books in economics, it deals with fiscal and monetary policies during a time of prosperity (the 1950s) in post-war United States. This book coined the term "conventional wisdom" and indeed, it does a good job of examining commonly agreed-upon economic ideas and principles in light of history and political realities. The book takes a look at the importance of production and efficiency, price controls, taxation, inflation and supply-and-demand. It also addresses the ideas of oth ...more
Feb 25, 2015 Louis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 02, 2015 Mohamed rated it it was ok
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
Aug 02, 2014 Mohamed rated it it was ok
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
Apr 23, 2012 Nick Klagge rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
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
Aug 08, 2011 Mel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 16, 2012 Dave rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 04, 2009 Tommy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 really liked it  ·  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
Nov 27, 2010 Snehal Bhagat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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“Wealth is not without its advantages and the case to the contrary, although it has often been made, has never proved widely persuasive. ” 14 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.” 5 likes
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