IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The Dependence Effect, Consumption and Happiness: Galbraith Revisited


  • Amitava Krishna Dutt


In his analysis of the affluent society, Galbraith argued that advertising and the sales promotion activities of firms create wants for people, which makes them consume more without making them better off, because their wants were artificially created. Thus, in the affluent society, ever-increasing levels of production (and consumption) do not increase welfare. This paper considers three criticisms of Galbraith's analysis: first, firms cannot 'create' wants for consumers without their consent, because consumers are not mere pawns in their hands; second, even if people's wants are created, they may be better off by consuming more; and third, that expansion of consumption can make people better off by expanding aggregate demand. It draws on the recent literature on consumption, income and happiness, and develops a simple model of growth and distribution, to argue that Galbraith's analysis holds up against these criticisms.

Suggested Citation

  • Amitava Krishna Dutt, 2008. "The Dependence Effect, Consumption and Happiness: Galbraith Revisited," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 20(4), pages 527-550.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:revpoe:v:20:y:2008:i:4:p:527-550 DOI: 10.1080/09538250802308919

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Carola Grün & Stephan Klasen, 2003. "Growth, Inequality, and Well-Being: Intertemporal and Global Comparisons," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 49(4), pages 617-659.
    2. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 817-869.
    3. Andrew Clark & Fabrice Etilé & Fabien Postel-Vinay & Claudia Senik & Karine Van der Straeten, 2005. "Heterogeneity in Reported Well-Being: Evidence from Twelve European Countries," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(502), pages 118-132, March.
    4. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition, and Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868.
    5. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-659, May.
    6. Rodrik, Dani, 1999. "Where Did All the Growth Go? External Shocks, Social Conflict, and Growth Collapses," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 4(4), pages 385-412, December.
    7. Lipton, Michael & Ravallion, Martin, 1995. "Poverty and policy," Handbook of Development Economics,in: Hollis Chenery & T.N. Srinivasan (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 41, pages 2551-2657 Elsevier.
    8. Galor, Oded & Weil, David N, 1996. "The Gender Gap, Fertility, and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 374-387, June.
    9. Kakwani, Nanak, 1981. "Welfare measures : An international comparison," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 21-45, February.
    10. Hoffman, Elizabeth & McCabe, Kevin A & Smith, Vernon L, 1996. "On Expectations and the Monetary Stakes in Ultimatum Games," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 25(3), pages 289-301.
    11. Mattias Lundberg & Lyn Squire, 2003. "The simultaneous evolution of growth and inequality," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(487), pages 326-344, April.
    12. Oded Galor & Joseph Zeira, 1993. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(1), pages 35-52.
    13. Boland, Lawrence A, 1979. "A Critique of Friedman's Critics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 17(2), pages 503-522, June.
    14. Jenkins, Stephen P, 1997. "Trends in Real Income in Britain: A Microeconomic Analysis," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 22(4), pages 483-500.
    15. Stephen Knowles & Paula K. Lorgelly, 2002. "Are educational gender gaps a brake on economic development? Some cross-country empirical evidence," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 54(1), pages 118-149, January.
    16. Ravallion, Martin & Chen, Shaohua, 2007. "China's (uneven) progress against poverty," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 1-42, January.
    17. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 35-47, June.
    18. Amiel, Yoram & Creedy, John & Hurn, Stan, 1999. " Measuring Attitudes towards Inequality," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 101(1), pages 83-96, March.
    19. Kristin J. Forbes, 2000. "A Reassessment of the Relationship between Inequality and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 869-887, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Setterfield, Mark & Kim, Yun K., 2016. "Debt servicing, aggregate consumption, and growth," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 22-33.
    2. Mark Setterfield & Yun K. Kim & Jeremy Rees, 2016. "Inequality, Debt Servicing and the Sustainability of Steady State Growth," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 28(1), pages 45-63, January.
    3. Soon Ryoo & Yun K. Kim, 2014. "Income Distribution, Consumer Debt and Keeping up with the Joneses," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(4), pages 585-618, November.
    4. Jakob Kapeller & Bernhard Schütz, 2015. "Conspicuous Consumption, Inequality and Debt: The Nature of Consumption-driven Profit-led Regimes," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(1), pages 51-70, February.
    5. Liselot Hudders & Mario Pandelaere, 2012. "The Silver Lining of Materialism: The Impact of Luxury Consumption on Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 411-437, June.
    6. Yun Kim & Soon Ryoo, 2013. "Income Distribution, Consumer Debt, and Keeping Up with the Joneses: a Kaldor-Minsky-Veblen Model," Working Papers 1302, Trinity College, Department of Economics.
    7. Charpe, Matthieu & Flaschel, Peter, 2013. "Workers’ debt, default and the diversity of financial fragilities," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 27(C), pages 48-65.
    8. Mark Setterfield & Yun K. Kim, "undated". "Household Borrowing and the Possibility of “Consumption- Driven, Profit-Led Growthâ€," Working Papers Series 39, Institute for New Economic Thinking.
    9. Jakob Kapeller & Bernhard Schütz, 2012. "Debt, Boom, Bust: A Theory of Minsky-Veblen Cycles," Economics working papers 2012-14, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
    10. Yun Kim, 2012. "Emulation and Consumer Debt: Implications of Keeping-Up with the Joneses," Working Papers 1208, Trinity College, Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:revpoe:v:20:y:2008:i:4:p:527-550. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Chris Longhurst). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.