After the End of History

The Curious Fate of American Materialism
1st Edition
Robert E. Lane
A creative presentation of Lane's career research as an ongoing conversation between two fictitious social scientists with opposing views


Robert E. Lane spent his career studying money, happiness, materialism, and humanism, and how these differ in rich and poor countries. In this book Lane illustrates his research by presenting us with a dialogue between two protagonists—two social scientists who regularly meet for lunch in a diner just off-campus. One of them is a narrowly trained economist who believes that wealth matters above all else; his companion is an eclectic, humanistically inclined political scientist who believes that the materialistic perspective is outdated and that social scientists should be thinking about other, more direct routes to human well-being. Their conversations draw from a wealth of sources: ideas from history, philosophy, psychology, and religion; and address topics such as justice, money, development, work, and happiness.

Robert E. Lane is the Eugene Meyer Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Yale University. His previous publications include The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies (2000) and The Market Experience (1991).

Praise / Awards

  • "The past two decades have witnessed the triumph of free market capitalism as the dominant mode of economic organization throughout the world. At the same time, academic social science has been roiled over disputes about its ideological justification, an imperialistic neo-classical economic theory emphasizing markets and rational choice. Robert E. Lane is one of the most prominent and distinguished critics of both the human impact of market economies and economic theory, arguing from much research that happiness is more likely to flow from companionship, enjoyment of work, contribution to society, and the opportunity to develop as a person, than from the pursuit of wealth and the accumulation of material goods in market economies. This latest work playfully personalizes the contrast through a dialogue between a humanistic social scientist, Dessi, and a market economist, Adam. It is all too rare to have the two sides talking to each other. Moreover, in Lane's witty and literate hands, it is an open-minded and balanced conversation, in which neither side has all the answers. His unparalleled grasp of interdisciplinary social scientific knowledge is brought to bear on the largest questions of human life: What genuinely makes people happy? How should human society be organized to maximize the quality of human lives? In the end, neither seems entirely certain of his ground. Dessi continues to claim that materialism empirically proves not to be the road to happiness, while Adam counters that people nevertheless seem strongly motivated to seek wealth and material goods, as if they would provide the good life for them. Should social scientists try to correct people's own preferences about what really makes them happy, or trust that people know their own desires best? Dessi responds that educators should do just that, perhaps echoing the ultimate indeterminacies of earlier debates over the Marxist concept of false consciousness."
    —David O. Sears, Professor of Psychology and Political Science, UCLA

  • "Lane's deep knowledge of the sources of human happiness enables him to develop a powerful critique of economic theory."
    —Robert A. Dahl, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Yale University

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Copyright © 2005, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 240pp.
  • 4 figures.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2005
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06915-6

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  • $33.95 U.S.

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  • Wealth, happiness, materialism, humanism, inequality, justice, development, work