Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Capitalism is driving Oliver James crazy

"Great swaths of the population believe they can become rich and famous, and that it is highly desirable. This is most damaging of all -- the ideology that material affluence is the key to fulfillment and open to anyone willing to work hard enough."

Over at
Alternet, author Oliver James is arguing that capitalism as practiced in English-speaking nations is promoting this, whereas the kind practiced in, say, France isn't; that this worldview is more prevalent here now than it was, say, 20 or 30 years ago; that it's the reason for our higher rates of mental illness than in the past; and that if this worldview were turned around the rates of mental illness would be halved in a generation.

This argument is full of many of the same holes as the popular rants against sprawl (James Howard Kunstler, for example), including the generational time frame. (That's a pretty fair description of the American Dream in the 1800s, for heaven's sake!)
It also overlooks that "mental illness" is a fast-expanding category now that it's become a pharmaceutical money-maker. And even if everything else he wrote were true, it wouldn't follow that it could be undone or that undoing it -- returning to some ill-defined state of "reduced consumerism and greater equality" -- would magically return us to the status quo ante.

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