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The Affluent Society

Primary source: John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society, 1958.
Caption: Galbraith's classic study of 1950s America discusses the irony of the existence of significant poverty in affluent America.

[. . . ] Poverty—grim, degrading, and ineluctable—is not remarkable in India. For few, the fate is otherwise. But in the United States, the survival of poverty is remarkable. We ignore it because we share with all societies at all times the capacity for not seeing what we do not wish to see. Anciently this has enabled the nobleman to enjoy his dinner while remaining oblivious to the beggars around his door. In our own day, it enables us to travel in comfort by Harlem and into the lush precincts of midtown Manhattan. But while our failure to notice can be explained, it cannot be excused. "Poverty," Pitt exclaimed, "is no disgrace but it is damned annoying." In the contemporary United States, it is not annoying but it is a disgrace. [. . . ]

John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society, 4th ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1984), 254.



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