affluenza, n. – a painful, contagious,
socially transmitted condition
of overload, debt, anxiety, and
waste resulting from the
dogged pursuit of more


Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic has easily passed the test of time and become an American classic, the book that raised our crisis of consumption to national awareness. ~ Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature

The authors have packed their book with stunning facts, searing insights – and they point out a path forward. ~ Fast Company Magazine


In 1951, Americans sat together with their neighbors, laughing at Red Skelton. In 1985, we still watched Family Ties as a family. But by 1995, each member of a family often watched his or her own TV, as isolation and passivity became a way of life. What began as a quest for the good life in the suburbs degenerated into private consumption splurges that separated one neighbor from another, and one family member from another. We began to feel lost in our own neighborhoods—it wasn’t just the Desperate Housewives who were ill at ease. Huge retailers took advantage of the confusion, expanding to meet our demand for cheap underwear, hardware, and software.

The more we chased bargains and the paychecks that bought them, the more vitality slipped away from our towns. Now, if we want to experience Main Street—the way it was in the good old days—we travel to Disney World, to a faux community where smiling shopkeepers, the slow pace, and the quaintness remind us that our real communities were once close-knit and friendly.

How will Disney portray the good old days of the suburbs, in future exhibits? Will it orchestrate background ambience—highway traffic, leaf blowers, and beeping garbage trucks—to make it more realistic? Will it recreate gridlock as bumper-to-bumper cars, complete with cell phones to tell our families we’ll be late for the next ride? Will our tour of the “gated community” require more tickets than rides through the “inner city” do? Will Disney hire extras to play the roles of other suburbanites who can’t drive—elderly, disabled, and low-income residents, peeking out from behind living-room curtains?