Johnson (1978). In search of the affluent society.

Johnson, A. (1978). In search of the affluent society. Human Nature, 1(9), 50–59.

[This version from Chapter 31, Cultural Anthropology, unknown date/editors, as provided by library’s document delivery service.]

“Sahlins points out that there are two roads to affluence: our own, which is to produce more, and what he calls the Buddhist path, which is to be satisfied with less.” (p 201)

“The increase of consumption time at the expense of free time is both a loss and a gain. Here we encounter a subtle, complex problem. Increased consumption may add excitement and pleasure to what would otherwise be considered boring time. On the other hand, this increase has the effect of crowding time with consumption activities so that people begin to feel that ‘time is short’ — which may detract from the enjoyment of consumption.” (p 203)

“… increased productivity means, though it is not often mentioned in this context, that to keep the system going we must consume more goods. Free time gets converted into consumption time because time spent neither producing nor consuming comes increasingly to be viewed as wasted.” (p 203)

“Linder sees a kind of evolutionary progression from ‘time surplus’ societies through ‘time affluence’ societies, ending with the ‘time famine’ society of developed countries.” (p 203)

“This experience brings up the question of whether goods are needed in themselves or because demand for them has been created by the producers. Galbraith stresses that we cannot simply assume that goods are produced to meet people’s needs. The billions of dollars spent each year on advertising indicate that not all consumer wants arise from basic needs of the individual, but that some are created in consumers by the producers themselves.” (p 205)

Selected References

  • Galbraith, J. K. (1958). The affluent society. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  • Linder, S. B. (1970). The harried leisure class. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Sahlins, M. D. (1972). Stone age economics. Transaction Publishers.


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