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All Consuming [Paperback]

Neal Lawson
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 Jun 2009

'Stabbing at battle of Ikea' Sun

'Most expensive house has £390m price tag' Daily Telegraph

'Financier runs up £36,000 bar bill' Independent

Diamond-encrusted phones, waiting lists for handbags, 7-star hotels - in the summer of 2007, the UK economy finally reached its giddy peak. But it wasn't just celebrities and bankers wanting to spend, spend, spend. Whipping out our cheap credit cards, the whole nation developed one obsessive, unsustainable habit: shopping.

Now the cash has dried up and we've consumed our way to financial disaster. But were rich times really happy times? And if shopping got us in to this mess, should we really be encouraged to shop our way out of it?

With finances in flux, now is our chance to break this all-consuming cycle. Offering everyday ways to start kicking the habit, Neal Lawson shows us how to put the basket down for good, and why we'll be happier for it.

Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (25 Jun 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141029412
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141029412
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 524,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Neal Lawson is a political commentator. In between time spent shopping and thinking about shopping he writes regularly for the Guardian and the New Statesman and often appears on the radio and television. He was formerly an adviser to Gordon Brown and before that was a trade union researcher. He is chair of the fast-growing pressure group Compass and managing editor of the policy journal Renewal. In 2001 he co-edited The Progress Century (Palgrave).

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Customer Reviews

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I read this book in a day and found it totally absorbing. In its criticism of consumerist culture, it covers similar ground to Oliver James's "Affluenza" Richard Layard's, "Happiness" and Richard Wilkinson's work on inequality. In its discussion of personal solutions it refers to the "Idleness" project of Tom Hodgkinson. In the discussion of political solutions Neal Lawson reveals himself as the democratic collectivist Chair of Compass, the Labour based but Greenish leaning pressure group. You don't have to agree with all his recommendations to enjoy the book. Having read it, it's difficult to disagree with his contention that the solution to our current economic, environmental and existential problems will involve embracing "less" rather than "more".
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
You knew that there was something wrong with the UK which is why you go to France and Italy for your holidays. It isn't just the sun, is it ? All Consuming puts the finger on what that malaise is. The clogged roads, the faceless and samey high streets, the complete lack of interest in political parties, the privatisation of everything, the commercialisation of education - all the manifestations of the consumer society are pointed out and explained.

Having also read Robert Frank's Luxury Fever and Oliver James' Affluenza and The Selfish Capitalist, there is nothing here that is completely new. As the author himself says, can you have original thoughts ? But that is not the point. What Lawson has done is to write a short, hugely readable book that precisely encapsulates the problem and confronts us with our own behaviour. This is a book that should make you feel deeply uncomfortable, as weaning yourself off any addiction, from cigarettes to television, always is. But it is the most important book I have read in a long while. I hope it goes on to be read by hundreds of thousands of people and that the ideas within it will finally wake up our bland, complacent political parties, and also the electorate.

Having lived abroad for 25 years and only recently come back to the UK, I can see just how sick life in Britain has become, but I don't get the impression that most of the population are really aware, somnambulist consumers that they are. It doesn't have to be like this and Lawson is an inspirational guide, all the more so as he comes across as a completely normal person, rather than a sandal-wearing, bearded vegan, though for all I know, he may be all those things.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Every other page I found myself exclaiming (some times not so silently).. 'exactly!'. From the desperate sight of Boxing Day Sales to the ridiculousness of 'upgrades' on unbroken mobile phones - Neal Lawson has created a book that will generate a sense of togetherness amongst the silent (hopefully) majority in this country who have long thought that shopping, celebrity endorsement and stellar aspirations were undermining what should be a reasonably decent society. Lawson questions whether the recent recession will put the brakes on the turbo-consumerism of recent years and despite the real pain the downturn has caused - it is clear that many can see a very very bright silver lining on an otherwise dark cloud.

While the subject matter, the prose and the accuracy of the description of behaviour and causes in itself merits buying this book, the greatest asset is the style of writing - Lawson himself admits his flaws and of those close to him; his tone is never preaching or condescending - he does not talk down to the reader but rather you will feel at one with him as you murmu your 'exactlies'!

There is great comfort in reading a book like this and hopefully it will make a small difference to a huge number of people - who knows.....
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read this book and make some changes. 17 Nov 2009
I found All Consuming to be an extremely readable account of the problems a society runs into when consumption is the order of the day to the exclusion of everything else. The UK today represents a clear case of money taking precedence over time, health and happiness, and for what? For increased crime rates, a surge in the numbers of people suffering from depression and anxiety and a planet that is literally burning itself into extinction? Lawson explains at one point that if the entire world was to consume at the same rate as we do here in the UK, we would need three planets to sustain us. This makes me feel categorically ashamed of myself, and of this country. It effectively means that we are relying on poverty to sustain our shopping addiction. At its most basic, if someone somewhere wasn't going without food, a clueless Barbie-type in the UK wouldn't be able to buy a new outfit at Primark only a couple of days after she bought the last one. It's ludicrous.

Having said that, I didn't find there to be a huge volume of material in this book that I hadn't come across elsewhere before, and there is a fair amount of repetition, especially where Lawson describes the consequences of our all-consuming actions. I would have enjoyed the book more had there been a better balance between the 'what went wrong' and the 'how we can fix it', and there were also a considerable number of typos which I tend to find quite annoying.

The one thing that does, however, set the book apart from many of the others I have read in this area is its readability. Extremely easy to follow and hugely comprehensible - no prior political or economic knowledge necessary.
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