The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting, and the New Consumer

The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting, and the New Consumer

The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting, and the New Consumer

The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting, and the New Consumer

Synopsis

An in-depth look at the corruption of the "American Dream," the follow-up to the the Overworked American examines the consumer lives of Americans and the pitfalls of "keeping up with the Joneses." Schor explains how and why the purchases of others in our social and professional communities can put pressure on us to spend more than we can afford to, how television viewing can undermine our ability to save, and why even households with good incomes have taken on so much debt for so many products they don't need and often don't even want.

Excerpt

Some months after the publication of The Overworked American, I gave a public lecture in a church in Harvard Square. At the end of the talk, a young woman, in her thirties, raised her hand. A hospital administrator, she found herself trapped in what I had called in my book "the cycle of work and spend." How can I get out, she asked? While I felt fairly certain about one part of my answer (work less), I was less clear about the other (spend less). Was cutting back feasible for middle-class American consumers? What was driving their spending? How does spending affect the quality of life for people who are materially comfortable? Assuming an individual could break down the institutional barriers to shorter hours that I had discussed in my book, could he or she negotiate the lifestyle obstacles? What were the difficulties of living more simply in our highly consumerist culture?

At the same time that I was ruminating about these issues, I became convinced that America, as a country, had to free itself from work-and-spend. The ecological devastation created by the national lifestyle had become unacceptable. Almost any version of global, intergenerational, and class equity pointed to the need to change middle-class consumer patterns. But I also felt that creating a powerful impetus for change would require a better understanding of the social forces that sustained the lifestyle. This book is my effort to contribute to that understanding.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.