Why We Want What We Don't Need
In this powerful new video, 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 video 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
Juliet Schor, a professor of Sociology at Boston College, is the author of several books. Her research over the last ten years has focused on issues pertaining to trends in work & leisure, consumerism, the relationship between work & family, women's issues, and economic justice. Schor is beginning research on environmental sustainability and its relation to Americans' lifestyles. She is also a board member and co-founder of the Center for a New American Dream.
Executive Producers: Sut Jhally, Loretta Alper
Producer, Editor, Camera: Kelly Garner
Script Supervisor Loretta Alper
Motion Graphics: Alisa Placas
Audio Engineer: Thom Monahan
Graphic Designer: Michelle Rojas
Additional Camera: Brooks Garner
Praise for the Film
"In The Overspent American
, Juliet Schor ties it all together--over-consumption, debt, overwork, inequality, environmental degradation, and the other high costs of our over-spending culture. Broad in scope, but filled with powerful specifics, this video is a perfect college, church, high school or community group discussion-starter about a social problem that Americans ignore at their peril."
- John de Graaf | Co-producer, Affluenza and Escape from Affluenza
"A careful and lively dissection of disturbing social trends. The video challenges viewers to rethink the meaning and value of consumption in a society dangerously dependent on overconsumption."
- Lawrence Glickman | Author, A Living Wage: American Workers and the Making of Consumer Society
"With this video, students will understand why we spend beyond our means, the personal and social consequences of overspending and what they can do about it before they are burdened by debilitating debt."
- Nina Huntemann | Associate Professor, Suffolk University
"If you're among the millions of Americans who are spending more than you can comfortably afford, you're sure to profit from Juliet Schor's insightful account of American spending patterns. Skip your next latte or two and buy this excellent video."
- Robert Frank | Author, The Winner-Take-All Society