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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For those troubled by our propensity to be competitive, careerist and consumer driven, this is a good place to start.
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...
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97 of 105 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Promising idea, let down in the execution
"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...
Published on 16 May 2007 by Historian


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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
This review is from: Affluenza (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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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Money doesn't buy you happiness..., 30 April 2007
By 
Paul Caira (London UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Affluenza (Hardcover)
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
By 
E Reilly (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Affluenza (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.

His chapters are thematic but so loosely drawn that he frequently has to remind the reader (and himself) what they are and how they are supposed to relate as he goes along. The cartoon characters he 'meets' during his World Tour of The Mind (all the usual suspects...) are supposed to be the source of his insights. However, given that some insights are quite profound (describing the effect of social conditions on a woman's anatomy and disentangling your parents' values from your own) and some so basic (looking like Britney Spears is not a good measure of a woman's character and stop reading women's magazines), I doubt very much that he needed to leave his own bathroom to reach many of them.

What different readers find interesting will be what applies to their own lives, which is why the book is worth reading, despite the many infuriating stereotypes. Some points apply to everyone, some to men, some to women, some won't apply to you (or do they?). There surely is something for everyone. That is the great strength of this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For those troubled by our propensity to be competitive, careerist and consumer driven, this is a good place to start., 19 July 2014
This review is from: Affluenza (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. Accessible and enjoyable reads, however academically flawed in terms of scientific rigour, help contribute to widening our understanding of the reasons why we are in such a mess. That it has become a bestseller goes someway in to showing that people are interested in solutions to their problems in the society we have created. Whether it solves or not, it helps fuel critical awareness for the everyday person and I'm completely up for championing that. Equally, I am not overly bothered if there are creative accounts, convenient examples or inconsistencies, what is essential here is that on completing it you will have maybe brought into focus your real values. I can think that this only can be a good thing.
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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
By 
C. J. Paterson "C P" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Affluenza (Paperback)
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
By 
Mr. M. J. Bowen "middle name : NR" (some NOT RANDOM room) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Affluenza (Hardcover)
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
By 
Simon Boswell (Cheltenham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Affluenza (Hardcover)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very flawed., 22 Aug 2013
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I expected a professional and carefully researched book but found a silly over emotional and at times hysterical piece. I think Oliver James needs to calm down and not let his personal prejudices get in the way of factual evidence. For instance, his silly talk about the women of certain nations all being more beautiful than those of another. He also seemed to find his hatred of Tony Blair hard to deal with in a rational manner. His continual use of "nouveau" Labour instead of "New" reminded me of a child who has just discovered a naughty word and keeps using it to annoy. It is a pity because this book has some good points and some useful information but I did find it a rather tedious read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Prepare to be patronised, 4 Nov 2011
This review is from: Affluenza (Paperback)
I've been pondering what's wrong with this book (apart from its excessive length) and I think that the main problem for me is that James doesn't seem to realise that he sees the world from a position of tremendous privilege. He tries a few times to be self-effacing but it's totally unconvincing because he then goes on about his house, his lifestyle, his super-intelligent and well-to-do parents, etc. He seems to think he deserves special praise for sometimes looking after his own daughter. Much of what he has to say about women is patronising in the extreme. I still think this book is worth reading, but it's awfully smug and suffers, in my opinion, because of James's high opinion of himself and his way of doing things. How fortunate, too, that it ended up a bestseller, since James does display quite considerable anxiety about money and status ... I couldn't help wondering whether he is not rather badly infected with the "virus" himself.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting idea, but a long-winded expression of it., 18 Feb 2008
This review is from: Affluenza (Paperback)
Mr James has some very interesting ideas expressed in his book. In summary he argues that we would all be happier if we became more focused on what really matters to us i.e. raltionships, intimacy and tasks that are intrinsically interesting to us, rather than spending our time seeking material possessions or superficial aesthetic solutions as these thing will satisfy us only briefly.

I'm not sure that I agree with his all of his conclusions at the end of the book and perhaps he missed out an obvious one: a large tax on 'consumption' (with consumption being defined as goods/services not needed e.g TV's, alcohol, premier class airfares) and a reduction in income tax. This way, not only do those who decide to subscribe to consumerism pay the most but also an element of taxation becomes voluntary. Incidentally it also deals with other some of the side-effects of consumption eg alcohol fuelled violence, environmental damage etc.

Mt James' book is thought-provoking and all his ideas have a certain resonance. The book certainly made me think about choices I have made in my own life. The only real negative point is that I think the book could be 30% shorter....often whilst discussing the evidence to support Mr James' theories he goes into quite a lot of detail about those people who are the subject of his case study and sometimes the reader is left wondering how this is relevant to the main point, and to the extent that it is relevant, why such detail is necessary.

Overall though a book to be recommended.
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Affluenza
Affluenza by Oliver James (Hardcover - 25 Jan 2007)
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