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The Affluent Society

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  1,346 ratings  ·  73 reviews
Why worship work and productivity if many of the goods we produce are superfluous - artificial 'needs' created by high-pressure advertising? Why begrudge expenditure on vital public works while ignoring waste and extravagance in the private sector of the economy? This title deals with these questions.
Paperback, 276 pages
Published August 6th 2001 (first published 1958)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Szplug
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
Trevor
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
Mar 28, 2011 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
Paul Bard
Pre-reading:

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: http://abridge.me.uk/doku.php?id=the_...

Galbraith basically suggests that we...more
Jeff
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
Loren
Feb 09, 2012 Loren added it
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...more
Bill
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...more
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
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.
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
Mohamed
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...more
Patricia
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...more
Mel
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,...more
José
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
Danielle
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...more
Dave
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...more
Tommy
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...more
Jeffrey
Apr 02, 2007 Jeffrey rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
James
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
Jay
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.

He...more
Rocamadour


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...more
Steve
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
Ed Terrell
Galibraith is my favorite intellectual authors and this is one of his best. The Affluent Society builds upon the very foundations of modern economic thought until it becomes a philosophical inquiry into the causes and effects of all our decisions. Of special note is his view of the tools of economics in full social context as well as his treatment of want creation and consumer debt creation as associated components of productivity. Affluent Society is a refreshing assualt on the conventional wis...more
Katherine
J.K. Galbraith argues that, due to new technologies that maximize resources and prolong the lifespan of the workforce, this era is characterized by relative affluence, and past ones by relative poverty. Therefore, the old assumptions in economics about the scarcity of resources and the efficiencies of distribution will have to be reworked. Galbraith was one of the first economists to argue that funding infrastructure - parks, libraries, health care, schools, transportation - didn't represent a d...more
Gilbio
When the intelligence in the forefront of this writer, a great economist, rises the same message spread by Pope, there is to reflect by ourselves about our future! With his own words we must print in our minds "...to resist the tendency of recent times, which is, as so often before, to find social doctrine that limits or rejects the social claims of the poor.... And let us protect our affluence from those who, in the name of defending it, would leave the planet only with its ashes. " These words...more
Satyen
Feb 03, 2014 Satyen added it
Great and Best Book of the century after Keynes' General Theory
Satyendra S Nayak
Stephen
Very intriguing portrayal of the fundamental differences between conservative and liberal economic and societal views, even more so since most of the observations he made in the mid-50s still apply today. I really enjoyed his tracing of the historical origins of the modern economic platform but wanted a bit more in the way of "so what do we do about it?" If you want to keep your enemies closer and don't mind his wandering narrative style, this is the book for you.
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John Kenneth Galbraith, OC (October 15, 1908–April 29, 2006) was a Canadian-American economist. He was a Keynesian and an institutionalist, a leading proponent of 20th-century American liberalism and progressivism. His books on economic topics were bestsellers in the 1950s and the 1960s.

Galbraith was a prolific author who produced four dozen books and over a thousand articles on various subjects....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. ” 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
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