Galbraith’s ‘Affluent Society’

by Paul Homan



J.K. Galbraith's service mainly lies in exposing the inadequacy of much conventional thinking and in opening up neglected facets of familiar facts. In doing so, he is deliberately "destructive." His attitude is that constructive improvement in our social arrangements is impossible until people have seen "the comfortable and the accepted" in new perspectives. They have to be shocked out of complacency. Galbraith organizes his argument around a modern paradox: why it is that as production has increased in modern times concern for production seems also to have increased. Galbraith's central argument was summarized at the beginning of the preceding section to the general effect that much production is misdirected into frivolous channels, precariously supported by an artificially induced consumer demand, while socially more important goals are being neglected. We must now see how this argument is elaborated and the problems of social action into which it leads. Galbraith identifies the American business community as the great vested interest in maintaining the myth of the importance of production.

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