Saturday, January 5, 2008

Affluenza by Oliver James

Is this too sweeping as a crit of modern American style capitalism? Decsribed by James as 'Selfish Capitalism'.
His thesis - in modern US influenced societies too many of us are infected by the 'affluenza virus', measuring everything in terms of material acquisitions, and aspiring to the lifestyle of the wealthiest. This aspiration is encouraged by TV programmes where most people are wealthy highly successful celebrities, and further fostered by the offer of instant fame and riches through such programmes as X-factor, Big Brother etc where 'ordinary' people can access the life-style of the super-rich - and what's more we all think 'we deserve it'.
As a result too many of us spend our time feeling thoroughly depressed, since we haven't got these trappings and possessions. We are then vulnerable to the blandishments of the advertisers, who, through the products they encourage us to buy, lead us to believe we will gain the life-style.
He contrasts the Anglo world with Denmark, which, he claims, is far less under the influence of aspirations to excessive affluence.
I have only begun reading this today. More to follow, no doubt.

As a postscript to this post - I haven't finished reading it yet. I feel he is trying too hard to fit the ideas around the meataphor of an illness, with his talk of virus and immunity etc.
He makes an interesting point that those who 'suffer' from it are more likely to take things as they are as 'given' and unchangeable - for example sexual roles are more polarised. Maybe I should read it earlier in the day. To be fair he gives a lot of examples from lots of different countries.

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