From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search
Ideas and theory
Society of the Spectacle · Culture jamming · Corporate crime · Media bias · Buy Nothing Day · Alternative culture · Simple living · Do it yourself · Microgeneration · Autonomous building · Cultural Creatives · Commodity fetishism · Cultural hegemony · Conspicuous consumption · Ethical consumerism
Related social movements
Anarchism · Alter-globalization · Anti-globalization movement · Environmentalism · Situationist International · Postmodernism · Socialism · Anti-consumerism ·
Popular works
Culture Jamming: Hacking, Slashing, and Sniping in the Empire of the Signs · No Logo · The Corporation · Affluenza · Escape from Affluenza · The Theory of the Leisure Class · Fight Club · Surplus
Persons and organizations
Adbusters · Freecycle · Ralph Nader · Green party · John Zerzan · Noam Chomsky · Ron English · Naomi Klein · Thorstein Veblen · Guy Debord · Michael Moore · Michel Foucault · RTMark · The Yes Men · Reverend Billy · CounterCorp
Related subjects
Advertising · Capitalism · Economic problems · Left wing politics · Sweatshops · Anti-consumerists · Social movements

Affluenza, a portmanteau of affluence and influenza, is a term used by critics of consumerism. Sources define this term as follows:

affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. (de Graaf [1])
affluenza, n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by the pursuit of the American Dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. (PBS [1])

Proponents of the term consider the costs of prizing material wealth vastly outweigh the benefits. They claim those who become wealthy will find the economic success leaving them unfulfilled and hungry for more wealth. The condition is considered particularly acute amongst those with inherited wealth, who are often said to experience guilt, lack of purpose and dissolute behavior, as well as obsession with holding on to the wealth (John Levy's Coping with Inherited Wealth - see [2]).

Critics[who?] of the term suggest that the term is a neologism, applying viral metaphor to an ill-defined societal anxiety.[citation needed]


[edit] The Affluenza theory

British psychologist Oliver James asserts that there is a correlation between the increasing nature of affluenza and the resulting increase in material inequality: the more unequal a society, the greater the unhappiness of its citizens.[2]. Referring to Vance Packard's thesis (The Hidden Persuaders) on the manipulative methods used by the advertising industry, James relates the stimulation of artificial needs to the rise in affluenza. To highlight the spread of affluenza in societies with varied levels of inequality, James interviewed people in several cities including Sydney, Singapore, Auckland, Moscow, Shanghai, Copenhagen and New York.

James also believes that higher rates of mental disorders are the consequence of excessive wealth-seeking in consumerist nations. [3]. He cites World Health Organization data that English-speaking nations have twice as much mental illness as mainland Europe: 23% vs 11.5% suffered in the twelve months ending[when?]. James defines affluenza as 'placing a high value on money, possessions, appearances (physical and social) and fame,' and this becomes the rationale behind the increasing mental illness in English-speaking societies. He explains the greater incidence of affluenza as the result of 'Selfish Capitalism,' the Market Liberal political governance found in English-speaking nations as compared to the less selfish capitalism pursued in mainland Europe. James asserts that societies can remove the negative consumerist effects by pursuing real needs over perceived wants, and by defining themselves as having value independent of their material possessions.

[edit] Affluenza by country

[edit] Australia

Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss' book[4] poses the question, "If the economy has been doing so well, why are we not becoming happier?" (pvii). They argue that affluenza causes over-consumption, "luxury fever", consumer debt, overwork, waste, and harm to the environment. These pressures lead to "psychological disorders, alienation and distress" (p179), causing people to "self-medicate with mood-altering drugs and excessive alcohol consumption" (p180).

They note that a number of Australians have reacted by "downshifting" — they decided to "reduce their incomes and place family, friends and contentment above money in determining their life goals." Their critique leads them to identify the need for an "alternative political philosophy," and the book concludes with a "political manifesto for wellbeing" (see [3]).

[edit] United States

Affluenza is considered to be most present in the United States, where the culture encourages its citizens to measure their worth by financial success and material possessions. Mainstream media outlets, such as television broadcasts, tend to demonstrate how pervasive the idea has become; and by the same token, the same media outlets reinforce the values to the viewers.

The term affluenza was popularized in the United States by the 1997 documentary of the same name from KCTS and Seattle and Oregon Public Broadcasting[4]. John de Graaf, producer of the documentary, also co-authored a book with the same title[1].

[edit] Affluenza in popular culture

  • Affluenza is mentioned in Chumbawamba's song "Buy Nothing Day" and "1 and 3" by the punk-rock band MxPx, and is the name of the debut album of Boston band Count Zero.
  • Radio talker Rush Limbaugh regularly runs a parody advertisement mocking the concept and suggesting that those "stricken with affluenza" can be cured by listening to his program. Rush's offer to 'cure' affluenza, by what is presumed to imply a renewed enthusiam for material consumption - acquired via exposure to his program - has led to commentary that Rush may not in fact understand what the concept of affluenza actually means.
  • The charity The Samaritans initiated the multi disciplinary arts exhibition Affluenza Exhibition in London 2009 where artists create work surrounding the theme of affluenza itself.

The Affluenza Exhibition was initiated by photographer and Samaritans volunteer Hege Sæbjørnsen, [4] Working with fellow creatives Iskra Tsaneva, Chelsey Browne and Kate Andrews plus a number of other volunteers, they collaborate with the Samaritans and Oliver James. The project can be accessed here [5] The exhibition with talks and events will take place in Clerkenwell, London on the 19-28 March 2009. Funded by UnLtd Awards [6] and The Norwegian Embassy [7].

  • Affluenza is conceptualised in both the book and movie of Fight Club (written by Chuck Palahniuk). “We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives.

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, John de Graaf, David Wann & Thomas H. Naylor, ISBN 1-57675-199-6
  2. ^ James, Oliver (2007). Affluenza: How to Be Successful and Stay Sane. Vermilion. ISBN 9780091900113. 
  3. ^ James, Oliver (2008). The Selfish Capitalist. Vermilion. ISBN 9780091923815. 
  4. ^ a b Affluenza: when too much is never enough, Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss, Allen & Unwin 2005, ISBN 1-74114-671-2

[edit] Further reading

[edit] External links

Personal tools