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The Anxieties of Affluence: Critiques of American Consumer Culture, 1939-1979

The Anxieties of Affluence: Critiques of American Consumer Culture, 1939-1979

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Описание
This book charts the reactions of prominent American writers to the unprecedented prosperity of the decades following World War II. It begins with an examination of Lewis Mumford’s wartime call for "democratic" consumption and concludes with an analysis of the origins of President Jimmy Carter’s "malaise" speech of 1979. Between these bookends, Daniel Horowitz documents a broad range of competing views, each in its own way reflective of a deep-seated ambivalence toward consumer culture—a persistent but shifting tension between a commitment to self-restraint and the pursuit of personal satisfaction through the acquisition of commercial goods and experiences.

To explain why affluence has caused so much anxiety in America, Horowitz focuses on key works of cultural criticism that stimulated public debate during what many have called the golden age of modern American capitalism. Some of these books, such as John Kenneth Galbraith’s "The Affluent Society," Rachel Carson’s "Silent Spring," and Ralph Nader’s "Unsafe at Any Speed," are well known, while others, like Ernest Dichter’s "The Psychology of Everyday Living," David Morris Potter’s "People of Plenty," and Paul Ehrlich’s "The Population Bomb," may be less familiar. Still others, such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s "Where Do We Go from Here?," have been overlooked as critiques of American consumerism. All were enormously influential in framing popular discussion of a range of troubling issues, from the relationship between morality and prosperity to the challenges the spread of wealth posed to the national character, to the natural environment, and to those who did not share in the country’s bounty.

In his final chapter, Horowitz examines the writings of three leading intellectuals—Daniel Bell, Robert N. Bellah, and Christopher Lasch—whose views shaped President Carter’s response to the energy crisis of the 1970s. An epilogue carries the story forward to the turn of the new century, as Americans find themselves grappling with the political and cultural implications of a new wave of prosperity.