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Affluenza: How Over-consumption Is Killing Us--and How to Fight Back

Category: Book
Foreword By: Leonard, Annie
By (author): Naylor, Thomas H.
By (author): Wann, David
By (author): de Graaf, John
Subject:  BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Consumer Behavior
  BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economics / Theory
  BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Industries / Retailing
  POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / General
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Published: February 2014
Format: Book-paperback
Pages: 288
Size: 9.25in x 6.63in x 0.75in
List Price:
$ 29.95
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Additional Notes

From The Publisher*Based on two highly acclaimed PBS documentaries watched by 10 million viewers, Affluenza uses the whimsical metaphor of a disease to tackle a very serious subject: the damage done-to our health, our families, our communities, and our environment-by the obsessive quest for material gain. In cleverly titled chapters such as "Swollen Expectations" and "A Rash of Bankruptcies," the authors examine the origins, evolution, and symptoms of the affluenza epidemic. They also explore cures and suggest strategies for rebuilding families and communities and for restoring and respecting the earth. The 2008 economic collapse demonstrated how prophetic this book was and how relevant it still is. The third edition has been updated to reflect the role overconsumption played in the collapse and how our economy and society have changed since then. There is also information about new ways to measure social health and success, such as the Gross Domestic Happiness index, which could help us wipe out affluenza.

affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.

We tried to warn you! The 2008 economic collapse proved how resilient and dangerous affluenza can be. Now in its third edition, this book can safely be called prophetic in showing how problems ranging from loneliness, endless working hours, and family conflict to rising debt, environmental pollution, and rampant commercialism are all symptoms of this global plague.  

The new edition traces the role overconsumption played in the Great Recession, discusses new ways to measure social health and success (such as the Gross Domestic Happiness index), and offers policy recommendations to make our society more simplicity-friendly. The underlying message isn't to stop buying-it's to remember, always, that the best things in life aren't things.
Review Quote*"Affluenza has easily passed the test of time and become an American classic, the book that raised our crisis of consumption to national awareness.
-Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and founder,

"The authors have packed their book with stunning facts, searing insights-and they point out a path forward."
-Fast Company

"Clear, witty and heartfelt."

"It is not a book that shakes a finger in our faces and reprimands hardworking Americans for wanting a little more comfort, elegance, and enjoyment . . . it creates something of real value-a new way of accounting for true happiness in our lives."
-Scott Simon, Weekend Edition host, National Public Radio

"Affluenza is a sober indictment of the excesses and sheer waste in our increasingly consumer-oriented society. We would all be well served to read the book and pass it on to relatives, friends, and neighbors in the hopes of creating a great public conversation around how to eradicate the affluenza pandemic."
-Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Third Industrial Revolution

"This witty yet hard-hitting book provides evidence of the social problems caused by the American obsession with acquiring ‘stuff' and proposes solutions for living more sustainably. Highly recommended."
-Library Journal

"Now here is a good reason to go shopping! The wonderful book that made consumerism the issue it should be, Affluenza, is here in a third, fully updated edition. The story of the Joneses, of ‘keeping up with the Joneses' fame, is itself worth the very modest price you will have to pay to enjoy this classic, now new and improved."
-James Gustave Speth, author of America the Possible and former director, Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

"If ever there was a right book at the right time, Affluenza is it. This country needs this book."
-Lester R. Brown, President, Earth Policy Institute, author of Plan B 4.0 and Full Planet, Empty Plates

"Affluenza makes us take a hard look at how the drive to excessive consumerism is personally, socially, and environmentally disastrous and then takes us on an exciting path to deeper happiness and satisfaction. It is a must-read for all who strive to create more healthy, just, and secure communities."
-Anthony D. Cortese, former Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and founder, American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment

"De Graaf, Wann, and Naylor have achieved something special with Affluenza. They take an unflinching look at the train wreck of America's consumer culture and then extricate us from the wreckage by providing practical policies and achievable actions for building a healthier society. Affluenza is also a great read; it contains the hopeful ideas we need to reach a livable future."
-Rob Dietz, coauthor of Enough Is Enough

"The programs offered at the end of the book work on many levels, from making personal choices to changing the rules of the game to reward all actions moving us toward a thriving, just, and sustainable future. So enjoy! This is a great book about a tough-to-face set of problems."
-Vicki Robin, coauthor of Your Money or Your Life and author of Blessing the Hands That Feed Us

"Affluenza is an engagingly conversational, thought-provoking look at where we have perverted the American dream. Though the nature of books like these is to preach to the converted, Affluenza offers enough support to the arguments and enough depth to the solutions to have a good chance of reaching the unconvinced."
-Detroit Free Press

"You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll cheer. You'll growl. But you'll be challenged and moved by this book. Affluenza looks at our epidemic of overconsumption and shows how we can live simpler, more meaningful lives. It's a fantastic book-very funny yet deeply serious."
-Peter Barnes, cofounder, Working Assets, now CREDO

"If you sometimes suspect that American life has become a nightmare but you dare not admit the truth to yourself or talk about it to others, take a peek inside Affluenza. The way to end a nightmare is to wake up, and this book is an alarm clock. We have created a world that dishonors all that is honorable, good, and meaningful. There is another possibility."
-Paul Hawken, author of The Ecology of Commerce and Natural Capitalism

"One of the wittiest, most dynamic treatments of the linked problems of our frenetic lives and the destruction of the planet. If you want to feel exhilarated, like jumping up and down and cheering humanity on as we find ways to save the Earth and ourselves, read this book!"
-Cecile Andrews, author of The Circle of Simplicity and Living Room Revolution

"The material basis for the American way of life is not sustainable here and is not replicable elsewhere. Our feverish mindset is burning up the natural systems that support us. Affluenza provides a witty, informed road map out of this unfulfilling dead end and describes sustainable alternatives that are stimulating, healthy, diverse, and fun."
-Denis Hayes, Chair, Earth Day Network

"Affluenza lays out the symptoms, the causes, and (gratefully) the cure. With wit, intelligence, and pizzazz, this trio of authors has brought together a complete guide to the disease that most ails America. Proof of having read the book should be a requirement for opening a charge account, applying for a boat loan, or running a large corporation."
-Yes! Magazine
Biographical NoteJohn de Graaf has worked with KCTS-TV, the Seattle PBS affiliate, for twenty-four years as an independent documentary producer. More than fifteen of his programs have been broadcast in prime time nationally on PBS. He is the recipient of more than 100 awards for filmmaking, including three Emmy awards. He is currently active in the Happiness Initiative ( and is an advisor to the prime minister of Bhutan. David Wann is an author, filmmaker, and speaker on the topic of sustainable lifestyles and designs. He has produced twenty videos and television programs, including the award-winning television documentary Designing a Great Neighborhood. Wann is president of the Sustainable Futures Society and a fellow of the Simplicity Forum. He worked more than a decade as a policy analyst for the US Environmental Protection Agency and codesigned the cohousing neighborhood where he lives. Thomas H. Naylor is a professor emeritus of economics at Duke University and is the author of over thirty books. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Nation, and BusinessWeek. Foreword author Annie Leonard is a proponent of sustainability and a critic of excess consumerism. She is best known for her animated film, The Story of Stuff, about the life cycle of material goods.