The Affluent Society

The Affluent Society

John Kenneth Galbraith

Language: English

Pages: 288

ISBN: 0395925002

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

John Kenneth Galbraith's classic investigation of private wealth and public poverty in postwar America


With customary clarity, eloquence, and humor, Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith gets at the heart of what economic security means in The Affluent Society. Warning against individual and societal complacence about economic inequity, he offers an economic model for investing in public wealth that challenges “conventional wisdom” (a phrase he coined that has since entered our vernacular) about the long-term value of a production-based economy and the true nature of poverty. Both politically divisive and remarkably prescient, The Affluent Society is as relevant today on the question of wealth in America as it was in 1958.

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summary owes much to Joan Robinson's indispensable book, An Essay on Marxian Economics (London: Macmillan, 1952). [back] *** 4 I should, perhaps, remind the reader that I am here concerned with a characterization of the Marxian position and of its impact on attitudes and not with a critique. Marxian critiques are still very, very long. [back] *** 5 Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto. [back] *** 6 Communist Manifesto. [back] *** 7 Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism ands Democracy,

performance, was multiplied. The most oaken worker could turn up in the employ of an inadequate entrepreneur. The just misfortunes of the employer would then be visited quite irrationally upon his faithful servant. He could lose his job and his livelihood equally through his own shortcomings and those of others. Needless to say, the competitive model had no place for individuals who, as the result of age, infirmity, industrial injury or congenital incompetence, had only a low or negligible

with those that have been covered. And protection once achieved is quickly taken for granted. It ceases to be a matter for discussion or even of thought. Henceforth, in pursuing the goal of greater economic security, we will be completing and perfecting a structure that in all its major features now exists. One cannot stress too strongly, however, that if economic security is to be considered finished business, or largely finished business, depression and inflation must be prevented. A

Advertising and emulation, the two dependent sources of desire, work across the society. They operate on those who can afford and those who cannot. With those who lack the current means, it is a brief and obvious step from stimulating their desire by advertising to making it effective in the market with a loan. The relation of emulation to indebtedness is even more direct. Every community contains individuals with wide differences in their ability to pay. The example of those who can pay bears

industrial market are likely to have what amounts to a reserve of unliquidated gains from unmade price advances. Unlike the farmer or other competitive producer, who is effectively isolated from any such opportunity, firms in these markets could exact higher prices than they do. They will do so if circumstances so change as to make short-run maximization more nearly consistent with the firm's view of its long-run interest. As a result, price increases in these industries are not tied tightly to

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