CONSUMPTION IN THE AFFLUENT SOCIETY 
countries, the costs of affluence are coming into
focus. In 1989, the average American consumed twice
as much as his or her counterpart in 1969, while
the average worker labored 160 more hours -- equivalent
to an extra month of full-time employment. The
expectation that productivity increases would eventually
translate into a life of leisure for the masses
has not been realized. As communities become more
fragmented, status consumption has intensified rather
than diminished. The fruits of economic growth --
more consumption, a growing strain on the natural
environment, but no more happiness all around --
raise serious questions for our economic agenda.
analyzes rising consumption levels in affluent societies
during the twentieth century and their effect on
both the public sector and the experience of consumers.
The summarized articles address various aspects
of the relationship between production and consumption.
The first five papers focus on the relation between
work life, consumption, and issues of personal identity.
The next four look at the social impact of increasing
The relationship between producers and consumers
is essential to understanding consumption in the
affluent society. One of the most influential writings
on this topic is John Kenneth Galbraith's The Affluent
Society. Galbraith questioned one of the basic
tenets of neoclassical economic theory: the assumption
of consumer sovereignty, which implies that tastes
are exogenous to the economic system. His concern
was that creating and satisfying wants through the
market would not lead to greater well-being.