The Challenge of Affluence
Since the 1940s Americans and Britons have experienced rising material abundance, but also a range of social and personal disorders, including family breakdown, addiction, crime, obesity, inequality, and economic insecurity. Avner Offer argues that well-being in these societies has lagged behind affluence, because they present an environment in which consistent choice is difficult to achieve over time and in which the capacity for personal and social commitment is undermined by the flow of novelty. This is then demonstrated in comparative studies of US and British market consumption (advertising, obesity, appliances and automobiles), and of personal relations (inter-personal regard, social status, heterosexual love, and parenthood). Drawing on the latest cognitive research, Offer provides a detailed and reasoned critique of modern consumer society, especially the assumption that freedom of choice necessarily maximizes individual and social well-being.