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The Challenge of Affluence


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Table of Contents

Preface 1: Introduction Part One: Evaluating Affluence 2: Economic Welfare Measures and Human Well-Being 3: Passions and Interests: Self-Control and Well-Being 4: Myopic and Rational Choice 5: Between the Gift and the Market: The Economy of Regard Part Two: In the Marketplace 6: The Mask of Intimacy: Advertising and Well-Being 7: Epidemics of Abundance: Body-Weight and Self-Control 8: Household Appliances and the Use of Time 9: The American Automobile Frenzy of the 1950s 10: Driving Prudently: American and European Part Three: Self and Others 11: Affluence and the Pursuit of Status 12: Inequality Hurts 13: All You Need is Love? Mating since the 1950s 14: Women and Children Last: The Ebbing of Commitment 15: Conclusion

About the Author

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 published by Oxford University Press, and he has been researching the question of the quality of life in affluent societies since the early 1990s. He is also a Fellow of the British Academy.


Avner Offer's latest sparkling and intellectually pugnacious contribution to his protean bibliography represents a tour de force of scholarship and provocative argument... this is an enormously rich and highly penetrating and stimulating study, based on vast and perceptive reading and research. It is also novel in its substance and approach. Barry Supple, The English Historical Review An intriguing book...one of Britain's most subtle thinkers about how we live now. Will Hutton, The Observer [A] powerful argument... This is a book that uses the tools of economics to illuminate the myopic lens through which economics views the world. Barry Schwartz, London Review of Books Avner Offer inserts a moral dimension into the study of economic history that has been missing since R.H. Tawney, offering a warning of the undesirable consequences of the pursuit of individual self-interest. M.J. Daunton, Economic History Review ...an intelligent, original, provocative, and moralistic book which should make historians think extremely seriously about important questions, even if they find themselves in disagreement with his approach. M.J. Daunton, Economic History Review This insightful book provides a fresh and refreshing new look at life in the United States and Britain over the past half century...provides invaluable insights. John F Helliwell, EH.NET A brilliantly argued book. William Skidelsky, Prospect ..always fascinating and thought provoking, Offer's range of reference is remarkably broad. He travels confidently across the social-science spectrum. Howard Davies, THES In the 1960s and 1970s, economists started worrying about environmental and social limits to growth. Avner Offer has added a weighty new critique to this tradition. The Economist The book is an invaluable source of information on changing attitudes and practices in the US and Britain since the end of the second world war. Samuel Brittan, Financial Times an uncompromising work of scholarship Martin Vander Weyer, The Spectator ...diligently and readably exposes the extent to which the past 25 years have forced people in the English-speaking world to believe that there is no alternative to dual-income workaholic consumerism, the "hedonic treadmill". Oliver James, The Guardian Sceptics who want some political muscle behind the diagnosis of our discontents will enjoy Avner Offer's account of why more means worse... Boyd Tonkin and Christina Patterson, The Independent Offer makes many compelling and interesting arguments that are backed by a wealth of data and analysis. Charles Kenny, Business History Review This is a wide, wise, and careful book. Joy Parr, Journal of Economic History Offer's narrative of a complex and difficult topic is masterful. Barnaby Marsh, Economic and Human Biology Offer's analysis of the complex relationship between economic markets and relationships and non-economic dynamics such as love, regard and esteem, and the impact of affluence on these interrelated systems, is superb. Helen Laville, The Americas The experience of reading The Challenge of Affluence is suffused with a pervasive suspicion that this might just be one of the most important books you have read. Tim Jackson, Social Policy and Administration a fascinating, ambitious, wide-ranging, freewheeling, and sometimes exasperating book about the perils of affluence. Bruce G. Carruthers, American Journal of Sociology

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