The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain since 1950

Paperback | November 12, 2007

byAvner Offer

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Since the 1940s Americans and Britons have come to enjoy an era of rising material abundance. Yet this has been accompanied by a range of social and personal disorders, including family breakdown, addiction, mental instability, crime, obesity, inequality, economic insecurity, and declining trust. Avner Offer argues that well-being has lagged behind affluence in these societies, because they present an environment in which consistent choices are difficult to achieve over different time ranges and in which the capacity for personal and social commitment is undermined by the flow of novelty.His approach draws on economics and social science, makes use of the latest cognitive research, and provides a detailed and reasoned critique of modern consumer society, especially the assumption that freedom of choice necessarily maximizes individual and social well-being. The book falls into three parts. Part one analyses the ways in which economic resources map on to human welfare, why choice is so intractable, and how commitment to people and institutions is sustained. It argues that choice is constrained by prior obligation and reciprocity. The second section thenapplies these conceptual arguments to comparative empirical studies of advertising, of eating and obesity, and of the production and acquisition of appliances and automobiles. Finally, in part three, Offer investigates social and personal relations in the USA and Britain, including inter-personalregard, the rewards and reversals of status, the social and psychological costs of inequality, and the challenges posed to heterosexual love and to parenthood by the rise of affluence.

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Since the 1940s Americans and Britons have come to enjoy an era of rising material abundance. Yet this has been accompanied by a range of social and personal disorders, including family breakdown, addiction, mental instability, crime, obesity, inequality, economic insecurity, and declining trust. Avner Offer argues that well-being has ...

Avner Offer is Chichele Professor of Economic History at the University of Oxford and Fellow of All Souls College. Prior to his academic career he spent eight years working as a soldier, farmer, and conservation worker in Israel, where he was born and raised. His other books include In Pursuit of the Quality of Life (1996), also publi...

other books by Avner Offer

Format:PaperbackDimensions:480 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.94 inPublished:November 12, 2007Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199216622

ISBN - 13:9780199216628

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Table of Contents

Preface1. IntroductionPart One: Evaluating Affluence2. Economic Welfare Measures and Human Well-Being3. Passions and Interests: Self-Control and Well-Being4. Myopic and Rational Choice5. Between the Gift and the Market: The Economy of RegardPart Two: In the Marketplace6. The Mask of Intimacy: Advertising and Well-Being7. Epidemics of Abundance: Body-Weight and Self-Control8. Household Appliances and the Use of Time9. The American Automobile Frenzy of the 1950s10. Driving Prudently: American and EuropeanPart Three: Self and Others11. Affluence and the Pursuit of Status12. Inequality Hurts13. All You Need is Love? Mating since the 1950s14. Women and Children Last: The Ebbing of Commitment15. Conclusion

Editorial Reviews

`Offer makes many compelling and interesting arguments that are backed by a wealth of data and analysis'Charles Kenny, Business History Review