47 pages 1 hour read

John de Graaf, David Wann, Thomas Naylor


Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2001

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Part 2, Chapters 11-13

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 2: “Causes”

Part 2, Chapter 11 Summary: “Early Infections”

According to the opening pages of this chapter, Part 2 of Affluenza shifts focus to an epidemiology of the disease—that is to say, an inquiry into its causes. “What was the genesis of affluenza?”, the authors ask, “Is it a bug that has always been there, just part of human nature? Is it culturally conditioned? Could it result from both nature and nurture?” (109). By isolating the causes of affluenza, the authors hope to better understand the manner in which it can be overcome.

Although the focus of the book centers on the so-called Age of Affluenza, the period of robust economic growth in the United States following the end of World War Two that facilitated the creation of modern consumer culture, Chapter 11 provides a brief overview of concerns about the concentration of wealth and the effects of materialism in the ancient world. According to the authors, it could be argued that the figures of Adam and Eve in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition were the original “patients zero” of affluenza. “[T]he first lesson of the Bible”, the authors write, “is an admonishment against coveting more than we need. Greed was, in fact, the original sin” (110).

Nevertheless, some anthropologists have argued that hoarding scarce resources was a necessity for early hunter-gatherer human societies.