47 pages 1 hour read

John de Graaf, David Wann, Thomas Naylor


Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2001

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Symbols & Motifs

Disease and Health

By construing overconsumption as affluenza—that is, a special kind of disease or virus—the authors open the door to a number of metaphors linked to sickness and health. They claim that there is a certain educational value in this: framing overconsumption as a disease makes the problem easier to understand. Like all illnesses, affluenza has clear causes, symptoms, and cures. The book attempts to provide a comprehensive study of the affluenza virus in order to give each of us the power to begin to counteract its increasingly dangerous effects and restore our figurative health.

Besides the resonance with the actual health effects of affluenza detailed in Chapters 3 and 4, the notion of overconsumption as a virus connotes images of fever and contagion. Like an epidemic, affluenza has spread across the globe and infected every nation on earth, imposing a uniform way of life modeled on the American Dream. Moreover, as the title of Chapter 1, “Feverish Expectations,” indicates, affluenza is marked by a kind of mania for more and more, a rapidity of life that moves from one thing to the next without adequately considering the bigger picture.

In our collective sprint towards economic growth and the accumulation of material possessions, other, quieter values have been neglected or sacrificed, such as internal spiritual fulfillment or a meaningful engagement with nature.