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The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don't Need

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The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don't Need


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In this powerful film, Juliet Schor scrutinizes what she calls "the new consumerism"--a national phenomenon of upscale spending that is shaped and reinforced by a commercially-driven media system. She argues that "keeping up with the Joneses" is no longer enough for middle and upper-middle class Americans, many of whom become burdened with debilitating debt as they seek to emulate materialistic TV lifestyles.

Drawing on her academic research, Schor explains the cultural forces that cause Americans to work longer hours and spend more than they can afford in order to participate in a consumption competition with others. The video illustrates with numerous examples how more and more products are being used as social communicators to demonstrate material success. The Overspent American challenges the inevitability of the consumer lifestyle by proposing alternatives to the work and spend cycle that has so many Americans feeling trapped and unfulfilled. The film draws attention to--and ultimately raises serious questions about--the costs (both financial and societal) of relentlessly searching for happiness and identity through consumption.

Sections: The Cycle of Work and Spend/ The Stretching of Reference Groups/ The Visible Lifestyle/ The Costs of Overspending/ Getting Off the Consumer Escalator

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