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The Affluent Society Revisited$
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Mike Berry

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199686506

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199686506.001.0001

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(p.112) 9 Debt
The Affluent Society Revisited

Mike Berry

Oxford University Press

A major outcome of the primacy of production turns on the increasing reliance of developed economies on debt. Galbraith argued that the process of want-creation underpinning the growth in output demands increasingly sophisticated means of financing expanded consumption. Debt on an ever-expanding scale fulfils this function. But an increasing dependence on debt runs up against limits that when reached threatens to stall the growth machine, undermining the fragile social truce on inequality and increasing insecurity at the household and economy-wide levels. In this analysis Galbraith demonstrated his most impressive credentials as a social prophet. The global financial crisis and Great Recession have raised challenges of unimaginable current importance – not fully anticipated fifty years ago but certainly glimpsed in The Affluent Society. The explosion of new, unregulated securities ‘(toxic assets’) threatened a collapse in global financial markets that pushed most advanced economies into serious recession.

Keywords:   Debt, consumption, want-creation, de-leveraging, toxic assets, recession

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