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New Left Review I/35, January-February 1966

Michael Lipton

The Mythology of Affluence

The practising economist cannot help observing that one book dominates the intelligent layman’s view of contemporary economics. That book is J. K. Galbraith’s The Affluent Society. Thanks to Professor Galbraith, it is now ‘radical’ to contend that, since the 1950’s, Western governments have sacrificed balance and stability to growth for its own sake; that growth is to blame for a falling share of Government activity in the national total; and that the relentless pressure of tedious manual labour, the production and advertisement of trivia, inflation, inequality, materialism and most other social evils result from our frantic search for affluence. Galbraith has done for growth what Pound sought to do for usury. And Galbraith blames, not self-interest or political pressures, but outmoded economic theories. [*] I am grateful to Professor Barry Supple of the University of Sussex, for most helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper, and to Mr Robin Blackburn for suggesting some important clarifications. Neither person is committed to any errors, or to the views expressed.

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