Another Dose of Affluenza That Calls for Much Deeper Diagnosis; You Can't Take It with You: Money Does Not Equal Happiness

Daily Mail (London), February 29, 2008 | Go to article overview
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Another Dose of Affluenza That Calls for Much Deeper Diagnosis; You Can't Take It with You: Money Does Not Equal Happiness


Byline: Sue MacGregor

ABOUT a year ago, the psychologist Oliver James brought out Affluenzaa wellreceived treatise on the virus afflicting, in particular, theEnglish-speaking middle classes around the world.

The symptoms of Affluenza (or are they its causes?) include a rampant desire tokeep up by purchasing showy status symbols.

The results are envy and depression, or even just what James calls a pervasive'ill-ease', leading to more spending.

Now he's brought out what could be dubbed Son of Affluenzaa book called The Selfish Capitalist, which, despite its long (but by no meanscomprehensive) bibliography, says nothing very different from its parent.

Like a good lecturer, James tells us at the beginning what he's going to sayand how he's going to say it, and promises us conclusions at the end. Theproblem with this approach is that it increases our impatience for newdiscoveries. But there are very few here, in a book which gives everyappearance of being hurriedly put together.

For instance, Gordon Brown's American holidays when he was Chancellor werespent not in Florida but in New England, specifically Cape Cod. This sort ofsloppiness is a pity, for many of us will have a great deal of sympathy withwhat James is trying to tell us.

One of his quoted gurus is the German-American Marxist psychologist ErichFromm, who 50 years ago pointed out the dangers of being controlled by ourmaterial possessions. He argued that it would leave us without a purpose inlife, apart from a craving for the status symbols without which we believe ourfamily and friends will judge us as failures.

Another source for James is the more contemporary American psychologist TimKasser, who has made extensive studies of what he calls 'the dark side of theAmerican dream' to prove that materialists often have poor personalrelationships and are one-and-a-half times more likely than non-materialists tohave personality disorders.

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