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on 21 October 2015
I am surprised as to why this book has not been take more seriously and its theme pursued, then again, maybe it has by some who have read it. Oliver James argues that the spread of the US model of capitalism is responsible for the epidemic of emotional distress that has swept across the developed world, and is threatening to engulf the new China and Russia, among others. The competitive drive for wealth, status and power results in a profound destruction of the human soul. We end up treating ourselves and others as commodities, as mere means to vacuous ends. Our capacity to form authentic, loving relationships, to feel secure and balanced, is destroyed. a breakdown of standards and values from a lack of purpose or ideals, alienation and addiction await us.

It makes sense to anyone who has a conscience, to those who live beyond materialism.
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on 11 September 2016
Amazingly well written with lots of interesting facts. A must read for anyone who wants to be free of the relentless grip of consumerism.
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on 23 August 2017
Great book to ensure you're living life for the right reasons!
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on 19 July 2014
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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on 14 October 2016
happy with all items purchases.
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on 27 March 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.

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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on 3 October 2011
The premise of this cleverly named work is that the continuing Americanisation of English speaking developed nations is leading to increasing incidence of depression,anxiety and low self esteem, despite ever increasing incomes.

The vector of this malaise is the metaphorical virus of selfish capitalism which encourages the infected to value themselves only by what they have rather than who they are.The bulk of James's work is an ethnographic study in which he interviews individuals in seven different nations postulating on how cultural differences have affected individuals susceptibility to the negative mental consequences of rampant consumerism.There are interesting postulations on the role of Confuscian thinking in the east on the collective consciousness and vulnerabilty to consumerism.Likewise James extols the appreciation of intrinsic beauty in Denmark and Russia as a key cultural defence against materialism.

Although it could be argued there is a lack of empiricism in many of the field interviews cited it would be unfair to overly criticise James or to diminish the aims and achievements of this book.Clearly this is a work for mass consumption and not the sociology or psychology graduate.

By the nature of the subject matter this is a highly political book - equating selfish capitalism with Americanisation and accusing it of hijacking female equality.It is unlikely to win many friends amongst the political right or New Labour (left?)

Perhaps its greatest strength is the ability to encourage introspection by the reader into their own life goals and motivations- which can at times be uncomfortable but ultimately rewarding.Time and again the reader is asked to consider are your motivations intrinsic? Or are they materialistic? What are your motivations for working? Why do mothers really work?

James is at his salient best in disparaging the advertising industry which undermines the well being of us all by ensuring we are never materially or emotionally satisfied,bombarding us with images of impossible attractiveness (rather than intrinsic beauty).Indeed at the time of writing there is much discussion in the media about educating children into the airbrushing deceipts of the advertisers.

Affluenza is too long and would arguably be better without part three which reads as a rather idealistic manifesto for an unselfish capatilist state and a diatribe against 'Blatcher'( Blair/Thatcher) values. Nevertheless it is a powerful book which forces the reader into productive introspection.
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on 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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on 4 November 2011
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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on 24 December 2014
I haven’t devised a name for the treatment required, but this author needs someone to explain rationality and logic to him. Perhaps it should be called Common Sense Therapy.

I read this book because, like far more people than Mr James seems to accept could possibly exist, I am capable of thinking for myself and have been able to conclude, even without expensive psychoanalysis, that happiness does not lie in the acquisition of ever more material possessions and status. I was therefore, at the outset, genuinely open-minded and interested to see what he made of the subject. By the end I felt he badly needs help, and not just with his mind – writing style, research methods and unscientific prejudices anyone? I daresay some of my criticisms of his methods may be refuted in an Appendix to his book, but I don’t have a lot of time for Appendices, and certainly not his. If the body of the book doesn’t stand up on its own, then tough.

What do we get from this self-indulgent exercise in pop therapy? Let me count the things:

1) Nothing new in the way of ameliorative suggestions on an individual level. Try Buddhism if you don’t believe me; it’s far better thought out.
2) Preconceived notions for which he is, almost desperately at times, seeking confirmation through his ‘research’.
3) Highly dubious sampling, if I’m very generous. He seems to find only fairly affluent and disturbed individuals to interview (at length). The humble taxi driver he finds so enthralling is encountered by accident. Where are all the working class people, lower middle classes and genuine members of the social ‘elite’ etc etc? Nowhere as far as I could see. Not good enough; it completely undermines any validity in his arguments.
4) Supposition. A number of times he puts words in his interviewees’ mouths by saying something along the lines of ‘what I expect X would have said is...’ Again, not good enough. I scent speculation in search of the confirmation mentioned above.
5) Job creation – everyone should have therapy about their childhood. Oh; guess what my field is? Honestly! You really don’t need your childhood analysed to understand that money doesn’t make you happy.
6) Barely concealed hatred of America. Mr James, not every American is a grasping, rapacious selfish Capitalist dedicated to spreading their devilish creed across the Globe. You sound like a juvenile conspiracy theorist at times; it’s time to escape your childhood.
7) The frustration of a man who had high hopes for ‘nouveau’ (yes really – barely witty if used once and very tedious with repetition) Labour. Mr James seems personally affronted that they turned out to have feet of clay. It must be annoying to think of yourself as clever – and yet to have been so easily hoodwinked. Nonetheless, we don’t need to read anything like as much about your thwarted dreams of how cool Britannia might have become if our PM and his Chancellor weren’t deranged and incompetent respectively.
8) Questionable conclusions. Are people truly more ‘depressed’ (whatever that means, and one of his key assertions) now than they were in the past? Or were they less inclined to say so in the past because mental illness carried more of a stigma? There’s no discussion of this that I can find, but then it wouldn’t suit the hypothesis would it?
9) Solutions to the ‘problems’ which border on the insane, and I say this as a person who honestly believes we are not headed for a good place on this planet if we do not grow up and understand that endless consumption and an obsession with growing GDP to infinity is unwise. On one page James talks of unselfish Capitalism being fine (private property, competition and prices set by the market). He also sounds like a convert to William Morris’s belief in proper self-government (within practical bounds) when he talks of referenda and sub-referenda on everything ‘important’. And then, two pages later, he proposes introducing the most extraordinarily draconian and totalitarian regime – property prices compulsorily reduced by 90% and dictated by the Government being one, salaries capped at five times the national average being another. So what happens if the people vote this down, not wanting to pay off a mortgage which is at least 400% of their property value – or will the mortgages be reduced too? Hmm. I really cannot see this sort of thing working, in isolation, in the UK. Or perhaps it will. When everyone with an ounce of intelligence, energy and drive (sorry, selfish Capitalist motivation) has left the country, perhaps everyone left can be stupid, poor and happy together. He seems to think the stupider and poorer you are the happier you must be, so that would should be fine. Or is there a flaw in the logic here? Would not having the national wealth to afford the best healthcare, infrastructure, food etc etc – and living under this bizarre authoritarian regime - not actually start to make people feel envious of other countries which are doing better? I wonder why the Russian Empire, which Mr James seems to think is still relatively un-afflicted with his virus, imploded. Muddled thinking, I fear, is prevalent.

Dear oh dear; perhaps I exaggerate and misinterpret. I venture into arguing rather than reviewing. Why do I feel the need to do so? I must be in need of therapy, or psychoanalysis - or perhaps just something more illuminating and insightful to read. John Stuart Mill beckons or Thomas Paine. They were lions. Mr James is an ill-disciplined, spiteful puppy in need of a choke chain. I speak only of his writing. I’m sure he’s a nice person really.

We don’t need all this rubbish, and, even if some reviewers think it makes the message ‘money doesn’t make you happy’ more accessible, the book could be edited to about half its current length and be much improved as a consequence. All we need, and it’s a big ‘all’ I accept, is a half way decent education which makes some stab at developing an ability to think critically and analytically. This certainly isn’t inconsistent with passing exams to become the good little worker for the elite Mr James (from the lofty heights of Eton and Cambridge) patronisingly describes. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who managed to learn to think and pass exams. Teach people to think and the rest will eventually follow. I’ve been up to the mountain and I have seen the promised land…. And Oliver James certainly isn’t in charge of it.
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