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The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain since 1950

Author

Listed:
  • Offer, Avner

    (Chichele Professor of Economic History, University of Oxford, Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and Fellow of the British Academy)

Abstract

Since the 1940s Americans and Britons have come to enjoy an era of rising material abundance. Yet this has been accompanied by a range of social and personal disorders, including family breakdown, addiction, mental instability, crime, obesity, inequality, economic insecurity, and declining trust. Avner Offer argues that well-being has lagged behind affluence in these societies, because they present an environment in which consistent choices are difficult to achieve over different time ranges and in which the capacity for personal and social commitment is undermined by the flow of novelty. His approach draws on economics and social science, makes use of the latest cognitive research, and provides a detailed and reasoned critique of modern consumer society, especially the assumption that freedom of choice necessarily maximizes individual and social well-being. The book falls into three parts. Part one analyses the ways in which economic resources map on to human welfare, why choice is so intractable, and how commitment to people and institutions is sustained. It argues that choice is constrained by prior obligation and reciprocity. The second section then applies these conceptual arguments to comparative empirical studies of advertising, of eating and obesity, and of the production and acquisition of appliances and automobiles. Finally, in part three, Offer investigates social and personal relations in the USA and Britain, including inter-personal regard, the rewards and reversals of status, the social and psychological costs of inequality, and the challenges posed to heterosexual love and to parenthood by the rise of affluence.

Suggested Citation

  • Offer, Avner, 2007. "The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain since 1950," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199216628.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxp:obooks:9780199216628
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Avner Offer, 2013. "Narrow banking, real estate, and financial stability in the UK, c.1870-2010," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _116, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    2. Avner Offer, 2012. "A Warrant for Pain: Caveat Emptor vs. the Duty of Care in American Medicine, c. 1970-2010," Economics Series Working Papers Number 102, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    3. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald & Bert Van Landeghem, 2009. "Imitative Obesity and Relative Utility," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(2-3), pages 528-538, 04-05.
    4. George Irvin, 2007. "Inequality and the Anglo-American Economic Model," ICER Working Papers 26-2007, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.
    5. Offer, Avner & Pechey, Rachel & Ulijaszek, Stanley, 2010. "Obesity under affluence varies by welfare regimes: The effect of fast food, insecurity, and inequality," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 297-308, December.
    6. Robert J. B. Goudie & Sach Mukherjee & Jan-Emmanuel De Neve & Andrew J. Oswald & Stephen Wu, 2011. "Happiness as a Driver of Risk-Avoiding Behavior," CESifo Working Paper Series 3451, CESifo Group Munich.
    7. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2011. "Antidepressants and Age," IZA Discussion Papers 5785, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Komlos John, 2016. "Has Creative Destruction become more Destructive?," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 16(4), pages 1-12, October.
    9. David Madden, 2011. "The Impact of an Economic Boom on the Level and Distribution of Subjective Well-Being: Ireland, 1994–2001," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 12(4), pages 667-679, August.
    10. Jeremy S. Brooks, 2013. "Avoiding the Limits to Growth: Gross National Happiness in Bhutan as a Model for Sustainable Development," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 5(9), pages 1-25, August.
    11. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2008. "Hypertension and happiness across nations," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 218-233, March.
    12. E. Anthon Eff, 2013. "Veblen in the Metropolis: Land Use Proximity in United States Urban Landscapes," Working Papers 201301, Middle Tennessee State University, Department of Economics and Finance.
    13. Oswald, Andrew J & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2007. "Obesity, Unhappiness, and The Challenge of Affluence : Theory and Evidence," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 793, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    14. Avner Offer, 2012. "Self-interest, Sympathy and the Invisible Hand : From Adam Smith to Market Liberalism," Economic Thought, World Economics Association, vol. 1(2), pages 1-1, December.
    15. John Komlos & Ariane Breitfelder & Marco Sunder, 2008. "The Transition to Post-industrial BMI Values Among US Children," NBER Working Papers 13898, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. John Komlos & Marek Brabec, 2010. "The Trend of BMI Values among US Adults," CESifo Working Paper Series 2987, CESifo Group Munich.
    17. Jean-François Mouhot, 2011. "Past connections and present similarities in slave ownership and fossil fuel usage," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 105(1), pages 329-355, March.
    18. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2016. "Antidepressants and age: A new form of evidence for U-shaped well-being through life," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 46-58.
    19. Komlos, John & Brabec, Marek, 2011. "The trend of BMI values of US adults by deciles, birth cohorts 1882-1986 stratified by gender and ethnicity," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 234-250, July.
    20. Epaminondas Panas, 2013. "Homeorhesis and Indication of Association Between Different Types of Capital on Life Satisfaction: The Case of Greeks Under Crisis," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 110(1), pages 171-186, January.

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