Work-and-Spend Cycle

The work-and-spend cycle is a phenomenon in which people in affluent nations remain trapped in a pattern of long hours of work and increasing consumption spending that fails to generate lasting improvements in well-being and plays a major role in ecological degradation. For the originator of the concept, economist and sociologist Juliet Schor, it is not only a matter of the tightening grip of consumerism on culture and consciousness. But also work-and-spend is rooted in a bias in capitalist labor markets toward long hours of work, which results in labor productivity gains being channeled into rising incomes rather than more free time. Employees get accustomed to the higher income and the consumption it enables, until the next round of productivity and income increases.

In her ...

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