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Remarkably, economies focused on consumption appear, in turn, to foster conditions that heighten psychological insecurities, and in this sense they fuel themselves. Children grow up in homes where their parents crave products and possessions. Parents today work more hours outside the home than ever, many to acquire the buying power to obtain yet more and more of the goods that they have been taught they and their children “need.” In the meantime, attention to children, intimate time with spouses, availability to be in touch with extended family, and other satisfactions that cannot be bought are pushed to the periphery. Not much time for living remains after the working, spending, and consuming are completed. Yet during this free time, children and adults occupy themselves with mass media bulging with advertisements that entice and promise good feelings ahead. Thus, the cultural climate of consumerism creates the very circumstance where love, control, and esteem are not securely experienced, and in which an ever-present tendency to compare oneself with others is fostered. In this climate, almost everyone is vulnerable to “affluenza,” an infectious disease in which one becomes addicted to having.

Richard M. Ryan 

University of Rochester


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