Social Diseases of Today’s Affluent American Society

Today’s American society’s affluence is unparalleled: with the success of a capitalist economy, America is able to provide the essential needs of the society, and at a quantity more than what all of America needs. Food, clothing, cars, housing, and even home appliances range from the cheap to the expensive, in various sizes, color, and form. All these material needs and wants are available to every American. An observer would have considered that indeed, American life is the ideal life to live.

John de Graaf, David Wann, and Thomas Naylor thought otherwise. Critically looking into the seemingly affluent and ideal social order of American society in the book, “Affluenza,” the authors presented an insightful interpretation of the ‘social diseases’ that plague America. Collectively categorized under the epidemic termed as “affluenza,” the authors discussed how affluent American society was far from perfect: it has ‘social diseases’ that were created from indulging in too much material accumulation, which was over-consumption, social disintegration, and environmental degradation. Centering on these social diseases, “Affluenza” brought into fore the detrimental effects that capitalism and its comforts had on American society.

Prior to discussing the three main themes (over-consumption, social disintegration, and environmental degradation) discussed in Part I of the book, the authors defined first the nature of the epidemic. They defined the term “affluenza” as “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from dogged pursuit of more” (2). Evidently, affluenza is a social problem that emerged from the success of capitalism and modernism in America.

In illustrating how the epidemic spread and developed to give rise to the concept of “affluenza,” the authors first illustrated how over-consumption had become one of its ‘symptoms,’-that is, Americans are now experiencing the need to accumulate more material wealth, in an effort to win the race towards achieving affluence.

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