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Affluenza [Paperback]

Oliver James
2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
RRP: £10.99
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Book Description

27 Dec 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.

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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: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 32,790 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

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
97 of 105 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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41 of 45 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bitter morning after pill of a book 27 Mar 2013
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By savage
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Interesting book but much of what you already know if you have studies a little psychology.
Published 1 month ago by marie wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great product
Published 2 months ago by Diana Higham
4.0 out of 5 stars One of my top 10
Everyone should read this! Mental health would improve dramatically!
Published 2 months ago by Helen S.
4.0 out of 5 stars Stop being a "Marketing Character" and become a real human being.
I read this shortly after reading Don't sweat the small stuff, Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway, The Four Agreements and Non-Violent Communication and found it equally... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Howler
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 7 months 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 8 months 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 8 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 10 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 13 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 14 months ago by RICHARD LITTLE
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