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Affluenza [Hardcover]

Oliver James
2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 Jan 2007
There is currently an epidemic of 'affluenza' throughout the world - an obsessive, envious, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses - that has resulted in huge increases in depression and anxiety among millions. Over a nine-month period, bestselling author Oliver James travelled around the world to try and find out why. He discovered how, despite very different cultures and levels of wealth, affluenza is spreading. Cities he visited include Sydney, Singapore, Moscow, Copenhagen, New York and Shanghai, and in each place he interviewed several groups of people in the hope of finding out not only why this is happening, but also how one can increase the strength of one's emotional immune system. He asks: why do so many more people want what they haven't got and want to be someone they're not, despite being richer and freer from traditional restraints? And, in so doing, uncovers the answer to how to reconnect with what really matters and learn to value what you've already got. In other words, how to be successful and stay sane.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vermilion; 1st ed edition (25 Jan 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091900107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091900106
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.6 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 235,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Oliver James is excellent at showing why social scientists think that the surge in material affluence can produce the opposite of happiness." (Avner Offer, Professor of Economic History, University of Oxford)

"should be mandatory reading for everyone" (Will Self)

"Never before have I read a book that so precisely captures the way we are all being emotionally snookered by the demands of 21st-century living... read this book" (Jeremy Vine)

"an absorbing and effective wake-up call" (London Lite)

"a wonderfully clear and cogent thesis" (Guardian)

Book Description

World-renowned psychologist, Oliver James, tours the minds of the affluent middle classes, in search of an answer to the question: is it possible to be successful and stay sane?

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
94 of 101 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Promising idea, let down in the execution 16 May 2007
"Affluenza" is certainly a catchy title for the book and the definition of the problem certainly piques interest. James' work begins with a promising premise - seeking to explain (broadly through anecdotal ethnographic study - though by no means rigorous research) the rise in the reported incidence of mental illness and psychological distress in the developed world. Unfortunately, though, it appears that James reached his conclusions before he conducted the research - i.e. the modern world is "bad" and makes people unhappy and a lot of his judgements and pronouncmenets are clouded by this. The book also strays habitually into the territories of the unsubstantiated generalisation, fallacious argument and the error of confusing causation with correlation. In this way, James tends to seize upon explanations and theories without exploring alternatives and controlling for other potential explanatory factors. Apart from this, the author is also inappropriately self-satisfied regarding the affluence of his own upbringing, repeated discussion of which seems jarringly out of place in a book of this type, and also inappropriately takes it as read that childhood experiences inevitably govern the run of everyone's adult life. Apart from these criticisms, the book is well worth reading for the introspection it invites into one's values and life choices. Read Affluenza, but so do with a healthy degree of scepticism and with one eyebrow raised. This was probably not James' intention as he clearly regards himself as an arch intellectual, but this book really cannot be treated as a seminal sociological work!
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Money doesn't buy you happiness... 30 April 2007
If this sentiment seems trite to you, you may find little of real substance here, though as a schoolteacher who often wishes he were rich and famous (I answered YES to almost every question on the first page), I certainly need vivid reminders such as this book that the rich and famous aren't significantly happier than the rest of us - or if they are, it may have very little to do with their wealth and fame. From that point of view, it's a soothing balm for the would-be materialist's aching soul. Success, money, fame, houses, yachts, soft-furnishings, shoes - none of these things will make you happy - they can't.
Having said that, James' editor should have sat down with him and forced him to re-write it. There are jarring inconsistencies of tone (James refers to himself as his readers' 'heroic mind tourist', and says 'Err, see what you mean mate' in an aside), inaccuracies of punctuation ('as my mother said shortly before she died when my wife was describing her birth plan' - how very unfortunate that she should have died at that moment!), and, as has already been noted, broad unsupported statements that support his arguments when their opposites could equally easily be posited.
I love the portrait of the deeply unhappy multi-millionaire contrasted with the taxi-driver in the first chapter, but it's just too easy. I bet there are loads of unhappy taxi-drivers, and there may even be one or two well-balanced, fulfilled billionaires too, mightn't there?
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63 of 72 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting theory, poorly delivered 12 Jun 2008
I agree that this book is not very well written at all, so much so that it failed to keep me engaged. I gave up half way through. Although I agreed with the authors original premise, I do believe that Alain De Botton wrote a much better book with Status Anxiety and explained the premise in a much clearer and concise manner.
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114 of 133 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars no surprises 12 Feb 2007
With predictable broadsheet lead-in articles and supporting quotes from the usual suspects (Self, Vine), Affluenza comes well trailed and fails to deliver much beyond expectations. It starts well - James is at his best when interviewing those he consider's effected with his virus - but the following "self-help" and "manifesto" sections are hackneyed and ineffectual. Chapters with titles like "Educate your children (Don't Brainwash Them)" are full of the banalities you would expect and the kind of meaningless semantic hairspliting of "Have Positive Volition (Not 'Think Positive') is indicative of his failure to outline any coherant "way to live".

You get the feeling that he does not really want to criticize the alienating effects of consumer culture too severely - he frequently bangs on about his private property, ingratiates himself with political and media figures and ends up leaving the reader with a forever qualified persepctive ("be successful..but not at the expense..."). At the risk of sounding like some out-moded counterculturalist - it is the total way of life, the entire perception prevalent in consumer societies, that needs to be challenged and you don't get the feeling that James is willing (or thinks it profitable...) to go this extra mile. For me - this renders all his suggestions towards a better life hollow.

To conclude - the case studies are interesting as far as they go but I feel Jame's has failed to consider the problems he detects in their fullest context. Colour supplement, book-to-talk-about stuff.
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111 of 130 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelming 1 Jan 2008
As other reviewers have mentioned, this is a catchy title for a book, but the content totally fails to meet up to expectations. For a start I find the author's desire to always put himself in the picture thoroughly annoying. He is not the first person to examine this subject so why pretend he discovered it? Secondly, the term 'affluenza' is just a gimmick: its not a virus and the constant references to it become increasingly annoying.

If you want a well-considered perspective on status anxiety, read Alain de Botton's book. Its short, well argued and far more helpful at identifying the condition of modern life, and the cures.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars very poor
Have to agree with the majority view - this is a poor book, anecdotal rather than evidence-based, with the content chosen to support his (political) outlook, rather than letting... Read more
Published 28 days ago by Mr. Simon J. Flynn
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book
I absolutely loved this book and agree with everything James says. He manages to put into words the feelings that many of us downshifters have long had about western society and... Read more
Published 1 month ago by SecondCherry
4.0 out of 5 stars A recommended read - time to wake up
I would recommend this book. It may have its odd flaw, but it is clear to see the points James' is trying to put across. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Paul Persad
5.0 out of 5 stars James is the God of pyscoanalysts
I love this book, it's honesty, it's colloquialisms and the way James can grasp, from an objective view, how societies morals and idylls are based around being 'affluent'
Published 3 months ago by Clarry
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but Flawed Thesis
Interesting book that ultimately ties itself in knots. Money is not a bad thing, nor the making of it, though it can be misused and deadly - like sex, fire, water etc. Read more
Published 7 months ago by truman jones
2.0 out of 5 stars Very flawed.
I expected a professional and carefully researched book but found a silly over emotional and at times hysterical piece. Read more
Published 7 months ago by RICHARD LITTLE
3.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, but overly long...
I enjoyed it, but it felt a little dated with its views on the developing nations, I was turned off by the views on women and adoration of the Danish having healthy curves and big... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Tessa Carey
3.0 out of 5 stars Bitter morning after pill of a book
I bought this book from Tesco when it was published in 2007, and revisited it recently to see whether it has any more resonance now than it seemed to have at the time. Read more
Published 12 months ago by E Reilly
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting stories and a chance for some self-reflection. But the...
Well I certainly enjoyed reading this, but I can't score it more than 3/5 because of some overall flaws. Read more
Published 18 months ago by andrewp
5.0 out of 5 stars updating Fromm
After reading almost all of Erich Fromms books I was hooked on the ideas he proposed concerning the 'sickness' inherent in society and the way that selfish capitalism has... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Ken Ashman
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