Affluenza by Oliver James


The plot of the books is simple. We are all becoming greedier. Some countries are greedy than others. People want material goods because they see others hoarding them, even though they do not have much need for them. Hoarding material goods is not the answer. Does the book give you an answer?

In the last 100 (or so) pages of the book the author rambled on for some time about some preachy answers. However the first 200 (or so) do make an interesting reading. However, the book never amounts to a genuine scholarly probing about why our society is materialistic. For one, it never mentions the goodness inherent in the two deadly sins the book is warning us about – greed and envy.

There is a good evolutionary reason to be greedy. If the cave man did not horde the food greedily in the summer, the cave women and the cave kids would have died in the winter. Hoarding per se is not a bad idea, the problem starts when you are overdoing it. One of the reasons why we overdo it is because we tend to get envious of other people hoarding stuff (a point the books makes again and again). However, even envy has an important role to play. It is not such a bad idea to compare what you have and what others have. That is how you realize your own strengths, others competitive advantages and get inspired. It is precisely because there is always some utility in greed and envy, you can never totally get rid of them.

– Amaresh


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