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affluent society,term coined by John Kenneth GalbraithGalbraith, John Kenneth
, 1908–2006, American economist and public official, b. Ontario, Canada, grad. Univ. of Toronto (B.S., 1931), Univ. of California, Berkeley (M.S., 1933; Ph.D., 1934). After becoming (1937) a U.S.
..... Click the link for more information. in The Affluent Society (1958) to describe the United States after World War II. An affluent society, as the term was used ironically by Galbraith, is rich in private resources but poor in public ones because of a misplaced priority on increasing production in the private sector. Galbraith argued that industrial production was being devoted to satisfying trivial consumer needs, in part to maintain employment, and that the United States should shift resources to improve schools, the infrastructure, recreational resources, and social services, providing a better quality of life instead of an ever greater quantity of consumer goods. His critique influenced efforts during the 1960s to improve the quality of public institutions and facilities. The term has lost its original ironic meaning and is now used simply to indicate widespread prosperity.
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- a description of British society, especially in the mid-1950s and early 1960s, in which it was assumed that rising living standards were leading to profound changes in social attitudes, including a decline in traditional working-class support for the Labour Party See also AFFLUENT WORKER, EMBOURGEOISEMENT THESIS, CLASS IMAGERY.
- (GALBRAITH, The Affluent Society 1958) an account of US society in the late 1950s as a society in which basic economic scarcity and insecurity had been substantially conquered, but where private affluence was accompanied by ‘public squalor’ (e.g. producing cars in abundance, but disregarding road improvement and pollution control), and where poor provision was made for the casualties of capitalism. If increasing state expenditure in the 1960s and 1970s led to a departure from this pattern, monetarism and the changing political climate of the late 1970s and the 1980s has again tipped the balance against state provision. Echoes of Galbraith’s concerns exist, however, in the importance of environmental issues in modern politics (see GREEN MOVEMENT).
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000