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Affluenza Paperback – 27 Dec 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Vermilion; reprint edition (27 Dec. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091900115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091900113
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 18,103 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)

"A wonderfully clear and cogent thesis" (Guardian)

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

Book Description

The paperback of the Sunday Times bestseller: Oliver James tours the minds of the 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

2.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Accessible and quite human in its message. An underlying message of suggesting that we need to think about why we are doing what we are doing and what we are chasing and to what ends. It is, in a way, quite an obvious message, yet it's written in a way that reminds me to. It's open and wide in its reach and consequently can be prone to generalizing 'Denmark great (except for nursery) - Singapore screwed' (my generalization not James') That said given the nature of an attempt at trying to engage with a global portrait this only seems completely reasonable but it also means that no one is immune. Globalization is just that - a global concern. Aspirational Capitalism is also. To attempt such a portrait is perhaps indicative of the need for a world to be more aware of the wider social impact that our behaviours have alongside the ongoing concerns of health, environment etc. It's an easy and occasionally eye-opening plea to reason and self-awareness.

I'm surprised by some of the archly aggressive reviews here. Criticisms of James having no regard for his 'privileged position', mentioning his own family, or being too anecdotal amongst many the reviews written here seem slightly at odds with the idea of making accessible pop sociology. The fact that he has apparently made up his mind that there is this state of Affluenza surely would in some way give rise to being able to write a book about it in the first place. Proposing a book about an idea that you then argue doesn't actually exist seems a tad absurd. Equally it is inherently human in all circles of life for people to seek out those that support your beliefs or your theories. You can subscribe to his viewpoint or not.
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99 of 107 people found the following review helpful By Historian on 16 May 2007
Format: Hardcover
"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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E Reilly on 27 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback
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. Its message is basically that people in the US and the UK are messed up more than anyone else in the world. Its problem is that the author has a complex personal agenda, which spills into an almost unrelated political invective in 'Part 3'.

In 2007 I agreed with the idea of Selfish Capitalism, that our values as a society needed revisiting, and that other countries might be healthier places to live. But I did not get past the stereotypes on first reading, at whom I thought the book was aimed (but who would never read it). Since then, the financial meltdown has corrected some behaviour out of necessity, the BBC has been exposed by the Jimmy Saville revelation, and the Blair government has gone. But the central message of this rather awkward (and overly long, Part 1 is barely readable) book remains valid. Do we see it?

You are not likely to consider yourself one of the drones infected with Selfish Capitalism who are discovered, interviewed and diagnosed to a greater or lesser extent during his World Tour Of The Mind. But the trouble is you are. Whether you think so or not. The point of the book is that because we live in the UK so many of us need professional help, and he (as a clinical psychologist) can offer some kind of hope, which he does in odd token form at the end of each chapter. With this random hybrid of self-help and political sociology, Oliver James is actually making a very important point, but at the same time distracting attention and seeking it himself. We learn that he grew up in Chelsea, was educated at Cambridge, and considers himself as a member of the British elite.
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