Courtesy Reuters

Affluence and the World Tomorrow

The search for affluence is the pursuit of our time. Increasingly, however, we are uncertain where this search will lead, both for the industrial countries and for the developing countries. How may affluence, in concert with other factors, work to reshape the world over the next 30 years, and how will this changed world look from an international point of view? Many factors in addition to increasing wealth will be at work. We cannot be sure what these are and how they are working, much less what role affluence itself will play in the process.

Affluence is the state of society characterized by plenteous commodities and foodstuffs, high use of energy and considerable leisure, all somewhat broadly distributed through the population. But in the world today, countries are confronted by the irony that greater national power and riches are not accompanied by equivalent power to shape their destinies. Increasing wealth is not matched by increasing capacity to achieve national goals, because industrialization and modernization create change faster than countries can choose goals or deal with the results of change. Moreover, the greater the affluence of nations, the greater their dependency on each other.

Affluence acts to destroy traditional cultures, or rather to transform them. Some cultures appear more adaptable than others to the needs of industrial society, for example, the Japanese and the German. Yet in all cases the modified cultures created by emerging affluence increase individual dependency on the economic system and the state and weaken dependencies of individuals on family, clan, temple and community. These new dependencies create new responsibilities for the state and lead to bureaucratic government.

Most Western countries and Japan have given themselves in submission to the pursuit of increasing wealth. Other national objectives such as creating a high culture or helping the poor have taken a back seat to the pursuit of affluence for the middle classes.

Socialist nations, on the other hand, have tended to view submission to the production of goods for everyone as

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