It is now forty years and something more since I surveyed the scene in the economically advanced countries, especially the United States, and wrote The Affluent Society. The book had a satisfying reception, and Im here asked as to its latter-day relevance. That should not be asked of any author, but the mistake having been made, I happily respond. The central argument in the book was that in the economically advanced countries, and especially in the United States, there has been a highly uneven rate of social development. Privately produced goods and services for use and consumption are abundantly available. So available are they, indeed, that a large and talented expenditure on advertising and salesmanship is needed to persuade people to want what is produced. Consumer sovereignty, once governed by the need for food and shelter, is now the highly contrived consumption of an infinite variety of goods and services.
That, however, is in what has come to be called the private sector. There is no such abundance in the services available from the state. Social services, health care, education especially education public housing for the needful, even food, along with action to protect life and the environment, are all in short supply. Damage to the environment is the most visible result of this abundant production of goods and services. In a passage that was much quoted,I told of the family that took its modern, highly styled, tail-finned automobile out for a holiday. They went through streets and countryside made hideous by commercial activity and commercial art. They spent their night in a public park replete with refuse and disorder and dined on delicately packaged food from an expensive portable refrigerator.
All this, were I writing now, I would still emphasize. I would especially stress the continuing unhappy position of the poor. This, if anything, is more evident than it was forty years ago. Then in the United States it was the problem of southern plantation agriculture and the hills and hollows of the rural Appalachian Plateau. Now it is the highly visible problem of the great metropolis.
There is another contrast. Were I writing now, I would give emphasis to the depressing difference in well-being as between the affluent world and the less fortunate countries mainly the post-colonial world. The rich countries have their rich and poor. The world has its rich and poor nations. There has been a developing concern with these problems; alas, the progress has not kept pace with the rhetoric.
The problem is not economics; it goes back to a far deeper part of human nature. As people become fortunate in their personal well-being, and as countries become similarly fortunate, there is a common tendency to ignore the poor. Or to develop some rationalization for the good fortune of the fortunate. This is not, of course, the full story. After World War II decolonization, a greatly civilized and admirable step, nonetheless left a number of countries without effective self-government. Nothing is so important for economic development and the human condition as stable, reliable, competent and honest government. Here Im not suggesting an independent role for any one country and certainly not for the United States. I do believe we need a much stronger role for international action, including, needless to say, the United Nations. We need to have a much larger sense of common responsibility.
So I take leave of my work of forty years ago.. There remains always the possibility, even the probability, that books do more for the self-esteem of the author than for the fate of the world.
Q.1 What is the author attempting to illustrate through this passage?
A) The fact that books like The Affluent Society, end up promoting the cause of the author more than finding real solutions to the issues they deal with.
B) The disparity in the development of utilities and services between the private sector and the state sector in the United States.
C) The trend of bipolar disparities in economic endowments observed by him from the time of the first publication of The Affluent Society.
D) That human nature and not economic factors are responsible for the gap between the rich and the poor.
Q.2 The author is likely to agree with which of the following?
A) Contrived consumption in todays world leads to unfair competitive practices among sellers of private goods.
B) The environmental impact of consumer sovereignty is best addressed by bodies like the United Nations rather than by individual countries in the developing world.
C) The family (quoted in the passage) which went for a holiday liked commercial art because commercial art is one of the features of the affluent society.
D) A disregard for the public good is one of the hallmarks of the affluent society.
Q.3 Which of the following terms corresponds best to the definition of consumer sovereignty?
A) Buyers market
B) Consumerist culture
C) Consumer Goods
D) Perfect competition among seller