Scaling a sandy slope

"Incredible wealth” and “breathless pace”—these are two of the most prominent features of Western societies as the old millennium ends and the new begins. True, it is breathless pace for all and incredible wealth only for some. Yet the eyes of all are set on material wealth and so we keep running, faster and faster. In his classic The Affluent Society, John Kenneth Galbraith compared the struggle in modern societies to satisfy wants with the “efforts of the squirrel to keep abreast of the wheel that is propelled by his own efforts.” We work in order to spend and we spend in order to work; the faster we work the more we spend, and the more we spend the faster we must work. “If you want to have more cake tomorrow, you have to eat more today.” This counterintuitive wisdom of today’s economic life has become a basic rule of our lives. And if anyone asks, “Why one would want to eat so much cake in the first place?” we give her a look of surprised incomprehension.

 

This article is available to subscribers only. Please subscribe for full access—subscriptions begin at $4.95. Already have an online account? Log in now. Already a print subscriber? Create an online account for no additional cost.

This article is available to subscribers only.

To post a comment, log inregister, or use the Facebook comment box.