The Affluent Society

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The Affluent Society is a 1958 (4th edition revised 1984) book by Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith. The book sought to clearly outline the manner in which the post-World War II United States was becoming wealthy in the private sector but remained poor in the public sector, lacking social and physical infrastructure, and perpetuating income disparities. The book sparked much public discussion at the time, and it is widely remembered for Galbraith's popularizing of the term "conventional wisdom."

Many of the same ideas were later expanded and refined in Galbraith's 1967 book, The New Industrial State.

Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich called it his favorite on the subject of economics.[1] The Modern Library placed the book at no. 46 on its list of the top 100 English-language non-fiction books of the 20th century.[2]


Galbraith writes:

"On the importance of production as a test of performance, there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats, right and left, white and minimally prosperous black, Catholic and Protestant. It is common ground for the Chairman of Americans for Democratic Action, the President of the United States Chamber of Commerce and the President of the National Association of Manufactures.”[3]

Galbraith ends the book with another appeal to the importance and need for investment in educating people:

“Whether the problem be that of a burgeoning population and of space in which to live with peace and grace, or whether it be the depletion of the materials which nature has stocked in the earth’s crust and which have been drawn upon more heavily in this century than in all previous time together, or whether it be that of occupying minds no longer committed to the stockpiling of consumer goods, the basic demand on America will be on its resources of intelligence and education.”[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Postpawl comments on I'm Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, author, and professor of public policy at Berkeley. AMA". 2011-09-02. Retrieved 2013-03-29. 
  2. ^ "100 Best Nonfiction « Modern Library". Retrieved 2013-03-29. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Galbraith, John Kenneth. "The Affluent Society" Fortieth Anniversary Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company: New York, 1998. p 100, 109, 158, 170, 259, 260

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