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Summary and book reviews of Affluenza by   Wann, de Graaf, Naylor

Affluenza

The All-Consuming Epidemic

by   Wann, de Graaf, Naylor

Affluenza
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2001, 275 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2002, 288 pages

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Book Summary

A fast-paced, very readable book that shows how to "beat the affluence bug" and achieve healthier, happier lives.

affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, virally transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.

Based on two highly acclaimed PBS documentaries, Affluenza uses the whimsical metaphor of a disease to tackle a very serious subject: the damage done -- to our health, our families, our communities, and our environment -- by the obsessive quest for material gain that, since World War II, has been the core principle of the American Dream. The authors show that problems like loneliness and rising debt, longer working hours and environmental pollution, family conflict and rampant commercialism are actually symptoms caused by a single "disease": affluenza, the never-ending search for more.

Like any medical report, Affluenza begins by detailing the symptoms of the disease. Chapters with titles like Swollen Expectations, A Rash of Bankruptcies, Shopping Fever, Chronic Congestion, and An Ache for Meaning detail the many serious and unexpected consequences of our society's compulsive desire to acquire.

Deepening their diagnosis, the authors explore the origins of affluenza. What causes it? Where did it come from? Why has it only recently begun to spread, seemingly unchecked, throughout the entire world?

Thankfully, affluenza can be cured. If it turns out you do have the bug - the book includes a self-diagnosis test so you can find out -- the authors detail a number of treatments that offer hope for recovery. They show readers how millions have already enriched their lives by getting rid of the excess baggage, the cultural clutter, and the exhausting race to keep up with the Joneses. Affluenza offers prescriptions that deliver greater value for the money, time, and energy spent each day; for augmenting individual efforts with political remedies; for inoculating ourselves against advertising; for using technology and inspired design to minimize the side-effects of overconsumption; and more.

Engaging, fast-paced, and accessible, Affluenza takes a hard look at a complex and serious issue, revealing ways of living and working that make more sense and are, ultimately, more satisfying. After all, the best things in life aren't things.

Table of Contents

Part I: Symptoms

  1. Shopping Fever
  2. A Rash of Bankruptcies
  3. Swollen Expectations
  4. Chronic Congestion
  5. The Stress of Excess
  6. Family Convulsions
  7. Dilated Pupils
  8. Community Chills
  9. An Ache for Meaning
  10. Social Scars
  11. Resource Exhaustion
  12. Industrial Diarrhea
  13. The Addictive Virus
  14. Dissatisfaction Guaranteed

Part Two: History

  1. Original Sin
  2. An Ounce of Prevention
  3. The Road Not Taken
  4. An Emerging Epidemic
  5. The Age of Affluenza
  6. Is There a (Real) Doctor in the House?

Part III: Treatment

  1. The Road to Recovery
  2. Bed Rest
  3. Aspirin and Chicken Soup
  4. Fresh Air
  5. The Right Medicine
  6. Back to Work
  7. Vaccinations and Vitamins
  8. Political Prescriptions
  9. Annual Check-Ups
  10. Healthy Again


Chapter 1 : Shopping Fever

Gotta listen to me honey
Gotta get all your money
Gotta know just where I stand
If you want to be my date
Well you better get it straight
I'm a big time shopping man.. . . .
Baby come on, there's a whole lotta shoppin' going on.. . . .
Get that money out of your ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Peter Barnes, co-founder, Working Assets
You'll laugh… You'll cry… You'll cheer… You'll growl. But you'll be challenged and moved by this book. Affluenza looks at our epidemic of overconsumption and shows how we can live simpler, more meaningful lives. It's a fantastic book, very funny yet deeply serious.

Author Blurb Paul Hawken, author of Ecology of Commerce and Natural Capitalism
Vicki Robin, coauthor of Your Money or Your Life The way to end a nightmare is to wake up, and this book is an alarm clock.

Author Blurb Cecile Andrews, author of The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the Good Life
Affluenza, the book, is as wildly informative and entertaining as the video! It's got to be one of the wittiest, most dynamic treatments of the linked problems of our frenetic lives and the destruction of the planet. The energy of this book is just incredible. If you want to feel exhilarated, like jumping up and down and cheering humanity on as we find ways to save the Earth and ourselves, read this book!

Author Blurb Mark Bay, Indiana University
This witty yet hard-hitting book provides evidence of the social problems caused by the American obsession with acquiring stuff and proposes solutions for living more sustainably. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries.

Author Blurb Vicki Robin, coauthor of Your Money or Your Life
Yes, yes, we all know money can't buy happiness, but thanks to this book, we now know in lots of fascinating detail the range of personal and social ills money is buying us. If 'affluenza' were just a source of personal misery, that would be bad enough. But this human disease is spreading to the natural world through over-consumption. The prognosis, if we do nothing, isn't good. Affluenza is the perfect spoonful of sugar to make the important medicine go down, redirecting ourselves to the joys of simpler, more frugal ways of living. Le haim! To life!

Author Blurb Denis Hayes, Chair, Earth Day Network
The material basis for the American way of life is not sustainable here and is not replicable elsewhere. Our feverish mindset is burning up the natural systems that support us. Affluenza provides a witty, informed roadmap out of this unfulfilling dead end, and describes sustainable alternatives that are stimulating, healthy, diverse, and fun.

Reader Reviews
adam

As a financial analyst and economist, I was very impressed with the book.

The challenge is in reality. How do we ensure that everyone has the basics we all need, including a vibrant community space, while not overindulging in junk.

D Rudy

The ultimate in illogic
Affluenza blames every negative circumstance observable or invented on the standard of living of Americans. While admitting that much of the core issue the book tries to raise is spiritual and relational, its solutions are ironically materialistic: ...   Read More

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