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Affluenza

How Overconsumption is Killing Us – and How to Fight Back

By John de Graaf, David Wann and Thomas H. Naylor
16-minute read
Affluenza: How Overconsumption is Killing Us – and How to Fight Back by John de Graaf, David Wann and Thomas H. Naylor

This book is about our serious addiction to consumption: affluenza. Since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve become addicted to shopping, believing we can buy happiness. Affluenza affects us and our society like a disease, and this book offers advice on how we can immunize ourselves against it.

  • Anyone interested in sociology
  • Anyone interested in media
  • Anyone interested in curing our addiction to consumption

John de Graaf has won over a hundred awards for documentary film making and is cofounder of The Happiness Initiative. Environmentalist David Wann is president of the Sustainable Futures Society, and the author of ten books, including The New Normal. Thomas H. Naylor was professor emeritus of economics at Duke University, and a radical thinker who was consulted by governments and major corporations in over 30 countries.

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Affluenza

How Overconsumption is Killing Us – and How to Fight Back

By John de Graaf, David Wann and Thomas H. Naylor
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Contains 10 key ideas
Affluenza: How Overconsumption is Killing Us – and How to Fight Back by John de Graaf, David Wann and Thomas H. Naylor
Synopsis

This book is about our serious addiction to consumption: affluenza. Since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve become addicted to shopping, believing we can buy happiness. Affluenza affects us and our society like a disease, and this book offers advice on how we can immunize ourselves against it.

Key idea 1 of 10

The Post-Industrial increase in productivity has created an addiction to consumption.

Imagine if the history of Earth was compressed into just seven days. How much time do you think human civilization would take up? Well, the development of agriculture would take two seconds. The Industrial Age – the last 200 or so years – would take just one hundredth of a second.

In this brief blip since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve consumed more resources than all people in Pre-Industrial human history combined. Americans now spend 71 percent of their $15 trillion economy on consumer goods.

This vast increase in consumption can mostly be attributed to technological advances. The Industrial Revolution dramatically increased our productivity: we can produce a great deal more, with a smaller workforce and lower costs.

People used to think that this increase in productivity would allow us to be more relaxed and have more free time. In fact, in 1965, the United States Senate estimated that by the year 2000, the working week would only be 14–22 hours long.

Instead, we’ve continued to work long hours, and some people work even more now thanks to laptops and mobile phones. Rather than enjoying society’s increase in production, we’ve become afflicted with affluenza.

Affluenza is our addiction to consumption, and it’s taking over our lives. Nowadays, we spend most of our brief free time buying products or consuming them. Affluenza prevents us from giving proper attention to things that make us truly happy, like relationships or exercise, for example.

The United States essentially reached a “happiness plateau” in 1957. Since then, the number of Americans who consider themselves “very happy” has steadily declined. People think consumption brings them joy, but affluenza is actually lowering our quality of life.

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