Using case studies from around the globe—including Mesoamerica, North and South America, Africa, China, and the Greco-Roman world—and across multiple time periods, the authors in this volume make the case that abundance provides an essential explanatory perspective on ancient peoples’ choices and activities. Economists frequently focus on scarcity as a driving principle in the development of social and economic hierarchies, yet focusing on plenitude enables the understanding of a range of cohesive behaviors that were equally important for the development of social complexity.
Our earliest human ancestors were highly mobile hunter-gatherers who sought out places that provided ample food, water, and raw materials. Over time, humans accumulated and displayed an increasing quantity and variety of goods. In households, shrines, tombs, caches, and dumps, archaeologists have discovered large masses of materials that were deliberately gathered, curated, distributed, and discarded by ancient peoples. The volume’s authors draw upon new economic theories to consider the social, ideological, and political implications of human engagement with abundant quantities of resources and physical objects and consider how individual and household engagements with material culture were conditioned by the quest for abundance.
Abundance shows that the human propensity for mass consumption is not just the result of modern production capacities but fulfills a longstanding focus on plenitude as both the assurance of well-being and a buffer against uncertainty. This book will be of great interest to scholars and students in economics, anthropology, and cultural studies.
Contributors: Traci Ardren, Amy Bogaard, Elizabeth Klarich, Abigail Levine, Christopher R. Moore, Tito E. Naranjo, Stacey Pierson, James M. Potter, François G. Richard, Christopher W. Schmidt, Carol Schultze, Payson Sheets, Monica L. Smith, Katheryn C. Twiss, Mark D. Varien, Justin St. P. Walsh, María Nieves Zedeño
Accounting for Tastes
Gary S. Becker Harvard University Press, 1996 Library of Congress HF5415.32.B43 1996 | Dewey Decimal 658.8343
Economists generally accept as a given the old adage that there's no accounting for tastes. Nobel Laureate Gary Becker disagrees, and in this lively new collection he confronts the problem of preferences and values: how they are formed and how they affect our behavior. He argues that past experiences and social influences form two basic capital stocks: personal and social. He then applies these concepts to assessing the effects of advertising, the power of peer pressure, the nature of addiction, and the function of habits. This framework promises to illuminate many other realms of social life previously considered off-limits by economists.
During the age of dictatorships, Latin American prisons became a symbol for the vanquishing of political opponents, many of whom were never seen again. In the postdictatorship era of the 1990s, a number of these prisons were repurposed into shopping malls, museums, and memorials. Susana Draper uses the phenomenon of the “opening” of prisons and detention centers to begin a dialog on conceptualizations of democracy and freedom in post-dictatorship Latin America. Focusing on the Southern Cone nations of Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina, Draper examines key works in architecture, film, and literature to peel away the veiled continuity of dictatorial power structures in ensuing consumer cultures.
The afterlife of prisons became an important tool in the “forgetting” of past politics, while also serving as a reminder to citizens of the liberties they now enjoyed. In Draper’s analysis, these symbols led the populace to believe they had attained freedom, although they had only witnessed the veneer of democracy—in the ability to vote and consume.
In selected literary works by Roberto Bolaño, Eleuterio Fernández Huidoboro, and Diamela Eltit and films by Alejandro Agresti and Marco Bechis, Draper finds further evidence of the emptiness and melancholy of underachieved goals in the afterlife of dictatorships. The social changes that did not occur, the inability to effectively mourn the losses of a now-hidden past, the homogenizing effects of market economies, and a yearning for the promises of true freedom are thematic currents underlying much of these texts.
Draper’s study of the manipulation of culture and consumerism under the guise of democracy will have powerful implications not only for Latin Americanists but also for those studying neoliberal transformations globally.
Americans love to hate consumerism. Scholars, intellectuals, musicians, and writers of all kinds take pleasure in complaining that consumer culture endangers the "real" things in life, including self-determination and individualism. In Authenticity Guaranteed, Sally Robinson brings to light the unacknowledged gender and class assumptions of anti-consumerist critique in the second half of the twentieth century. American anti-consumerism, despite its apparent complexity, takes a remarkably consistent and predictable narrative form. From the mid-century Organization Man to the millennial No Logo, anti-consumerist critique reinforces the gender order by insisting that authenticity is threatened, and masculine agency curtailed, by the feminizing forces of consumer culture.
Robinson identifies a tradition of masculine protest and rebellion against feminization in iconic texts such as The Catcher in the Rye and Fight Club, as well as in critiques of postmodernism, academic denunciations of shopping, and a variety of other discourses that aim to diagnose what ails American consumer culture. This fresh and timely argument enters into conversation with a wide range of existing scholarship and opens up new questions for scholarly and political discussion.
Beyond the Numbers presents a thought-provoking series of essays by leading authorities on issues of population and consumption. The essays both define the poles of debate and explore common ground beyond the polarized rhetoric.
Specific chapters consider each of the broad topics addressed at the International Conference on Population and Development held in September 1994 in Cairo, Egypt. The essays are supplemented by sidebars and short articles featuring more-impassioned voices that highlight issues of interest not fully explored in the overviews.
As well as providing a sense of the difficulties involved in dealing with these issues, the essays make clear that constructive action is possible.
Topics covered include:
the interrelationships between population, economic growth, consumption, and development
the history of population and family planning efforts
gender equality and the empowerment of women
reproductive rights, reproductive health, family planning, health and mortality
From food products to fashions and cosmetics to children’s toys, a wide range of commodities today are being marketed as “halal” (permitted, lawful) or “Islamic” to Muslim consumers both in the West and in Muslim-majority nations. However, many of these products are not authentically Islamic or halal, and their producers have not necessarily created them to honor religious practice or sentiment. Instead, most “halal” commodities are profit-driven, and they exploit the rise of a new Islamic economic paradigm, “Brand Islam,” as a clever marketing tool.
Brand Islam investigates the rise of this highly lucrative marketing strategy and the resulting growth in consumer loyalty to goods and services identified as Islamic. Faegheh Shirazi explores the reasons why consumers buy Islam-branded products, including conspicuous piety or a longing to identify with a larger Muslim community, especially for those Muslims who live in Western countries, and how this phenomenon is affecting the religious, cultural, and economic lives of Muslim consumers. She demonstrates that Brand Islam has actually enabled a new type of global networking, joining product and service sectors together in a huge conglomerate that some are referring to as the Interland. A timely and original contribution to Muslim cultural studies, Brand Islam reveals how and why the growth of consumerism, global communications, and the Westernization of many Islamic countries are all driving the commercialization of Islam.
The Burden of Choice examines how recommendations for products, media, news, romantic partners, and even cosmetic surgery operations are produced and experienced online. Fundamentally concerned with how the recommendation has come to serve as a form of control that frames a contemporary American as heteronormative, white, and well off, this book asserts that the industries that use these automated recommendations tend to ignore and obscure all other identities in the service of making the type of affluence they are selling appear commonplace. Focusing on the period from the mid-1990s to approximately 2010 (while this technology was still novel), Jonathan Cohn argues that automated recommendations and algorithms are far from natural, neutral, or benevolent. Instead, they shape and are shaped by changing conceptions of gender, sexuality, race, and class. With its cultural studies and humanities-driven methodologies focused on close readings, historical research, and qualitative analysis, The Burden of Choice models a promising avenue for the study of algorithms and culture.
Buyers Beware offers a new perspective for critical inquiries about the practices of consumption in (and of) Caribbean popular culture. The book revisits commonly accepted representations of the Caribbean from “less respectable” segments of popular culture such as dancehall culture and 'sistah lit' that proudly jettison any aspirations toward middle-class respectability. Treating these pop cultural texts and phenomena with the same critical attention as dominant mass cultural representations of the region allows Patricia Joan Saunders to read them against the grain and consider whether and how their “pulp” preoccupation with contemporary fashion, music, sex, fast food, and television, is instructive for how race, class, gender, sexuality and national politics are constructed, performed, interpreted, disseminated and consumed from within the Caribbean.
Advertising is a central part of the global system of commerce and culture. Every day it exposes consumers around the world to practices associated with the West, urban life, prosperity, and modernity. One consequence of this exposure is that it frees people's imaginations from time and place, and imposes a new and foreign reality. In this book Steven Kemper looks at a parallel trend, arguing that advertising firms in Nairobi, Caracas, and Colombo also domesticate the imagination, insinuating images into people's minds of the traditional as well as the modern, the local as much as the global.
Drawing upon fieldwork conducted over thirty years, Kemper examines the Sri Lankan advertising industry to show how executives draw on their skills as folk ethnographers to "Sri Lankanize" commodities and practices to make them locally desirable, essentially producing new forms of Sri Lankan culture. Addressing many of the most pressing agendas of contemporary anthropology, Buying and Becoming breaks new ground in studies of culture and globalization.
Nostalgia for the imagined warm family gatherings of yesteryear has colored our understanding of family celebrations. Elizabeth Pleck examines family traditions over two centuries and finds a complicated process of change in the way Americans have celebrated holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Chinese New Year, and Passover as well as the life cycle rituals of birth, coming of age, marriage, and death. By the early nineteenth century carnivalesque celebrations outside the home were becoming sentimental occasions that used consumer culture and displays of status and wealth to celebrate the idea of home and family. The 1960s saw the full emergence of a postsentimental approach to holiday celebration, which takes place outside as often as inside the home, and recognizes changes in the family and women's roles, as well as the growth of ethnic group consciousness.
This multicultural, comparative history of American family celebration, rich in detail and spiced with telling anecdotes and illustrations and a keen sense of irony, offers insight into the significance of ethnicity and consumer culture in shaping what people regard as the most memorable moments of family life.
“Chinese people should consume Chinese products!” This slogan was the catchphrase of a movement in early twentieth-century China that sought to link consumption and nationalism by instilling a concept of China as a modern “nation” with its own “national products.” From fashions in clothing to food additives, from museums to department stores, from product fairs to advertising, this movement influenced all aspects of China’s burgeoning consumer culture. Anti-imperialist boycotts, commemorations of national humiliations, exhibitions of Chinese products, the vilification of treasonous consumers, and the promotion of Chinese captains of industry helped enforce nationalistic consumption and spread the message—patriotic Chinese bought goods made of Chinese materials by Chinese workers in factories owned and run by Chinese.
In China Made, Karl Gerth argues that two key forces shaping the modern world—nationalism and consumerism—developed in tandem in China. Early in the twentieth century, nationalism branded every commodity as either “Chinese” or “foreign,” and consumer culture became the place where the notion of nationality was articulated, institutionalized, and practiced. Based on Chinese, Japanese, and English-language archives, magazines, newspapers, and books, this first exploration of the historical ties between nationalism and consumerism reinterprets fundamental aspects of modern Chinese history and suggests ways of discerning such ties in all modern nations.
From the 1860s through the early twentieth century, Great Britain saw the rise of the department store and the institutionalization of a gendered sphere of consumption. Come Buy, Come Buy considers representations of the female shopper in British women’s writing and demonstrates how women’s shopping practices are materialized as forms of narrative, poetic, and cultural inscription, showing how women writers emphasize consumerism as productive of pleasure rather than the condition of seduction or loss. Krista Lysack examines works by Christina Rossetti, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, George Eliot, and Michael Field, as well as the suffragette newspaper Votes for Women, in order to challenge the dominant construction of Victorian femininity as characterized by self-renunciation and the regulation of appetite.
Come Buy, Come Buy considers not only literary works, but also a variety of archival sources (shopping guides, women’s fashion magazines, household management guides, newspapers, and advertisements) and cultural practices (department store shopping, shoplifting and kleptomania, domestic economy, and suffragette shopkeeping). With this wealth of sources, Lysack traces a genealogy of the woman shopper from dissident domestic spender to aesthetic connoisseur, from curious shop-gazer to political radical.
Lury, Celia Rutgers University Press, 1996 Library of Congress HC79.C6L87 1996 | Dewey Decimal 306.3
This book is written as a survey for students who are interested in the nature and role of consumer culture in modern societies. Drawing on a wide range of studies and disciplines, Celia Lury examines the rise of consumer culture and the changing relations between the production and consumption of cultural goods. Rejecting the Marxist principle of production as the lone economic determinant in capitalist society, Lury presents consumerism as an equally active player in the free market. Rather than existing as opposites, production and consumerism are seen as complements, feeding off each other in an endless cycle. As the author writes, “the use or appropriation of an object is more often than not both a moment of consumption and production, of undoing and doing, of destruction and construction.”
Lury weaves unique arguments over the expansive nature of consumption, including explanations as to how poorer segments of society do in fact contribute to consumer culture and how a commodity moves beyond its function and assumes a cultural and symbolic meaning. Not only does the author explore the way an individual’s position in social groups structured by class, gender, race and age affects the nature of his or her participation in consumer culture, but also how this culture itself is instrumental in the defining of social and political groups and the forming of an individual’s self-identity.
Clearly written and well illustrated, Consumer Culture is a lively and engaging introduction to a topic which is of growing importance in media and cultural studies and in the sociology of culture. It will enable readers to understand and ultimately to have better control over the means of consumption.
The Consumer Society
Edited by Neva R. Goodwin, Frank Ackerman, and David Kiron Island Press, 1997 Library of Congress HF5415.33.U6C66 1997 | Dewey Decimal 306.34
The developed countries, particularly the United States, consume a disproportionate share of the world's resources, yet high and rising levels of consumption do not necessarily lead to greater satisfaction, security, or well-being, even for affluent consumers.
The Consumer Society provides brief summaries of the most important and influential writings on the environmental, moral, and social implications of a consumer society and consumer lifestyles. Each section consists of ten to twelve summaries of critical writings in a specific area, with an introductory essay that outlines the state of knowledge in that area and indicates where further research is needed. Sections cover:
Scope and Definition
Consumption in the Affluent Society
Family, Gender, and Socialization
The History of Consumerism
Foundations of Economic Theories of Consumption
Critiques and Alternatives in Economic Theory
Perpetuating Consumer Culture: Media, Advertising, and Wants Creation
Consumption and the Environment
Globalization and Consumer Culture
Visions of an Alternative
This book is the second volume in the Frontier Issues in Economic Thought series, which provides surveys of the most significant writings in emergent areas of economics -- an invaluable aid in fast-growing fields where genuine new ground is being broken. The series brings together economists, sociologists, psychologists, and philosophers to develop analyses that challenge and enrich the dominant neoclassical paradigm.
The Consumer Society is an essential guide to and summary of the literature of consumption and will be of interest to anyone concerned with the deeper economic, social, and ethical implications of consumerism.
Consider this paradox: Ecologists estimate that it would take three planets Earth to provide an American standard of living to the entire world. Yet it is that standard of living to which the whole world aspires.
In Consuming Desires, award-winning writer and social commentator Roger Rosenblatt brings together a brilliant collection of thinkers and writers to shed light on the triumphs and tragedies of that disturbing paradox. The book represents a captivating salon, offering a rich and varied dialogue on the underlying roots of consumer culture and its pervasive impact on ourselves and the world around us. Each author offers a unique perspective, their layers of thoughts and insights building together to create a striking, multifaceted picture of our society and culture.
Jane Smiley probes the roots of consumerism in the emancipation of women from household drudgery afforded by labor-saving devices and technological innovation; Alex Kotlowitz describes the mutual reinforcement of fashion trends as poor inner-city kids and rich suburban kids strive to imitate each other; Bill McKibben discusses the significance, and the irony, of defining yourself not by what you buy, but by what you don't buy.
The essays range widely, but two ideas are central to nearly all of them: that consumption is driven by yearning and desire -- often unspoken, seemingly insatiable -- and that what prevents us from keeping our consumptive impulse in check is the western concept of self, the solitary and restless self, entitled to all it can pay for.
As Rosenblatt explains in his insightful introduction: "Individualism and desire are what makes us great and what makes us small. Freedom is our dream and our enemy. The essays touch on these paradoxes, and while all are too nuanced and graceful to preach easy reform, they give an idea of what reform means, where it is possible, and, in some cases, where it may not be as desirable as it appears."
Taylor, Janelle S Rutgers University Press, 2004 Library of Congress HQ759.C7253 2004 | Dewey Decimal 306.8743
Winner of the 2005 Society for Medical Anthropology's Best Current Edited Collection Award from the Council on Anthropology in Reproduction
Consuming Motherhood addresses the provocative question of how motherhood and consumption—as ideologies and as patterns of social action—mutually shape and constitute each other in contemporary North American and European social life. Ideologically, motherhood and consumption are often constructed in opposition to each other, with motherhood standing in as a naturalized social relation that is thought to be uniquely free of the calculating instrumentality that dominates commercial relations. Yet, in social life, motherhood and consumption are inseparable. Whether shopping for children’s clothing or childbirth services, or making decisions about adopting children, becoming a mother (and maternal practice more generally) is deeply influenced by consumption. How can the relationship between motherhood and consumption be revealed, and critically analyzed? Consuming Motherhood brings together a group of sociologists, anthropologists, and religious studies scholars to address this question through carefully grounded ethnographic studies. This insightful book reveals how mothers negotiate the contradictory forces that position them as both immune from and the target of consumerist tendencies in contemporary global society.
Kathryn Lofton University of Chicago Press, 2017 Library of Congress BL65.C8L64 2017 | Dewey Decimal 306.60973
What are you drawn to like, to watch, or even to binge? What are you free to consume, and what do you become through consumption? These questions of desire and value, Kathryn Lofton argues, are questions for the study of religion. In eleven essays exploring soap and office cubicles, Britney Spears and the Kardashians, corporate culture and Goldman Sachs, Lofton shows the conceptual levers of religion in thinking about social modes of encounter, use, and longing. Wherever we see people articulate their dreams of and for the world, wherever we see those dreams organized into protocols, images, manuals, and contracts, we glimpse what the word “religion” allows us to describe and understand.
With great style and analytical acumen, Lofton offers the ultimate guide to religion and consumption in our capitalizing times.
Combining the tools of political, social, cultural, and intellectual history, Consumption and Violence: Radical Protest in Cold-War West Germany explores strategies of legitimization developed by advocates of militant resistance to certain manifestations of consumer capitalism. The book contributes to a more sober evaluation of West German protest movements, not just terrorism, as it refrains from emotional and moral judgments, but takes the protesters’ approaches seriously, which, regarding consumer society, had a rational core. Political violence is not presented as the result of individual shortcomings, but emerges in relation to major societal changes, i.e., the unprecedented growth of consumption. This new perspective sheds important light on violence and radical protest in post-war Germany, as previous books have failed to examine to what extent these forms of resistance should be regarded as reactions to changing regimes of provision. Continuing the recently growing interest in the interdependence of countercultures and consumer society, the focus on violence gives the argument a unique twist, making the book thought-provoking and engaging.
In Consumption Behavior and the Effects of Government Fiscal Policies, Randall Mariger explores how people make decisions about how much to consume and save over their lifetimes. An understanding of these issues illuminates not only individual behavior but important properties of the macro economy as well. The most popular framework for analyzing consumption has been the life-cycle theory. Mariger tests two fundamental, and controversial, assumptions underlying the theory—that there are no planned bequests and that human capital is marketable. To do this, he fits a structural consumption model that incorporates endogenous liquidity constraints (non-marketability of human capital), but no planned bequests, to data on a cross-section of U. S. families. This estimated model, in conjunction with estimates of alternative models, enables him to make inferences about the respective effects of liquidity constraints and social security wealth on consumption. This latter effect yields indirect evidence concerning planned bequests. Mariger also presents direct evidence concerning bequest behavior.
Among his findings are that the model fits the data very well in spite of its tight theoretical structure; that liquidity constraints are prevalent and have important effects on consumption behavior; that planned bequests appear not to be common among families in the lower 99.1% of the wealth distribution; and that families in the upper 0.9% of the wealth distribution appear to plan substantial bequests. Mariger devotes the latter part of his book to studying the implications of his estimated consumption model for the effects of government fiscal policies. More specifically, he simulates the model to infer the effects of government tax/debt policy, as well as those of the social security system, on aggregate savings.
Consumption Intensified examines how self-identified middle class Brazilians in São Paulo redefined their class during Brazil’s economic crisis of 1981–1994. With inflation soaring to an astounding 2700 percent, their consumption practices intensified, not only in relation to the national crisis but also to the expanding global consumer culture. Drawing on her observations of everyday practices and on representations of the middle class in popular culture, anthropologist Maureen O’Dougherty explores both the logic and incoherence of middle- to upper-middle-class Brazilian life. With the supports of middle-class living threatened—job security, quality education, home ownership, savings, ease of consumption—the means and meaning of “middle class” were thrown into question. The sector thus redefined itself through both class- and race-based claims of moral and cultural superiority and through privileged consumption, a definition the media underscored by continually addressing middle-class Brazilians as consumers—or rather, as consumers denied. In these times, adults became more flexible in employment, and put stakes in their children’s expensive private education. They engaged in elaborate comparison shopping, stockpiling of goods, and financial strategizing. Ongoing desire for distinction and “first- world” modernity prompted these Brazilians to buy foreign goods through contraband, thereby defying state protectionist policy. Discontented with the constraints of the national economy, they welcomed neoliberalism. By uncovering connections between culture and politics, O’Dougherty complicates understandings of the middle class as a social group and category. Illuminating the intricate relation between identity and local and global consumption, her work will be welcomed by students and scholars in anthropology and Latin American studies, and those interested in consumption, popular culture, politics, and globalization.
The combined contributions of science and religion to resolving environmental problems are far greater than each could offer working in isolation. Scientific findings are central to understanding the impact of human populations on the environment, but a more ecologically sustainable future will require radical changes in values, lifestyle choices, and consumption patterns -- a revolution that falls squarely within the domain of the religious community.
Consumption, Population, and Sustainability is an outgrowth of a conference sponsored jointly by the Boston Theological Institute and the American Association for the Advancement of Science that brought together more than 250 scientists and people of religious faith to discuss the environmental impact of consumption patterns and population trends, and to consider alternative and more equitable value systems, economic arrangements, and technologies that will be necessary for achieving a more sustainable future. The book:
provides a brief history of the dialogue between science and religion on environmental issues
outlines potential contributions of the religious community to the debate about global sustainability
offers a science-based assessment of issues such as carrying capacity, sustainability indicators, and the environmental impacts of consumer-based lifestyles
considers religious and theological perspectives on consumption and population from a variety of viewpoints including Roman Catholic, Jewish, Greek Orthodox, and Islamic
examines the ethical and policy dimensions of reorienting today's consumer society to one more focused on values, spiritual growth, and relationships.
Both the scientific and religious communities can make important contributions to understanding and responding to the impact of population growth and consumption patterns on environmental sustainability. This volume represents a significant step in establishing an ongoing dialogue between the communities, and provides a thought-provoking overview of the issues for scientists, theologians, and anyone concerned with the future of global sustainability.
Following Argentina’s revolution in 1810, the dress of young patriots inspired a nation and distanced its politics from the relics of Spanish colonialism. Fashion writing often escaped the notice of authorities, allowing authors to masquerade political ideas under the guise of frivolity and entertainment. In Couture and Consensus, Regina A. Root maps this pivotal and overlooked facet of Argentine cultural history, showing how politics emerged from dress to disrupt authoritarian practices and stimulate creativity in a newly independent nation.
Drawing from genres as diverse as fiction, poetry, songs, and fashion magazines, Root offers a sartorial history that produces an original understanding of how Argentina forged its identity during the regime of Juan Manuel de Rosas (1829–1852), a critical historical time. Couture and Consensus closely analyzes military uniforms, women’s dress, and the novels of the era to reveal fashion’s role in advancing an agenda and disseminating political goals, notions Root connects to the contemporary moment.
An insightful presentation of the discourse of fashion, Couture and Consensus also paints a riveting portrait of Argentine society in the nineteenth century—its politics, people, and creative forces.
Crap. We all have it. Filling drawers. Overflowing bins and baskets. Proudly displayed or stuffed in boxes in basements and garages. Big and small. Metal, fabric, and a whole lot of plastic. So much crap. Abundant cheap stuff is about as American as it gets. And it turns out these seemingly unimportant consumer goods offer unique insights into ourselves—our values and our desires.
In Crap: A History of Cheap Stuff in America, Wendy A. Woloson takes seriously the history of objects that are often cynically-made and easy to dismiss: things not made to last; things we don't really need; things we often don't even really want. Woloson does not mock these ordinary, everyday possessions but seeks to understand them as a way to understand aspects of ourselves, socially, culturally, and economically: Why do we—as individuals and as a culture—possess these things? Where do they come from? Why do we want them? And what is the true cost of owning them?
Woloson tells the history of crap from the late eighteenth century up through today, exploring its many categories: gadgets, knickknacks, novelty goods, mass-produced collectibles, giftware, variety store merchandise. As Woloson shows, not all crap is crappy in the same way—bric-a-brac is crappy in a different way from, say, advertising giveaways, which are differently crappy from commemorative plates. Taking on the full brilliant and depressing array of crappy material goods, the book explores the overlooked corners of the American market and mindset, revealing the complexity of our relationship with commodity culture over time.
By studying crap rather than finely made material objects, Woloson shows us a new way to truly understand ourselves, our national character, and our collective psyche. For all its problems, and despite its disposability, our crap is us.
In the late nineteenth century, general-interest magazines began to reach an unprecedented number of readers and conveyed to those readers diverse messages about the meaning of masculinity in America. Over the next fifty years, these messages narrated a shift from Victorian masculinity, which valued character, integrity, hard work, and duty, to modern masculinity, which valued personality, self-realization, and image. In Creating the Modern Man, Tom Pendergast studies the multifaceted ways that masculinity is represented in magazines published during this transitional period.
Pendergast focuses on the rise of mass consumer culture, demonstrating that consumerism was a key factor in reshaping American notions of masculinity as presented in popular magazines. Whereas much scholarship has decried the effects of consumerism, Pendergast treats consumer culture as an energizing force in the American magazine market. He suggests that such magazines offered men new and meaningful visions of masculine identity and argues that men actively participated in restructuring the masculine ideal. Engaging a wide range of magazines from American Magazine to Esquire to True, Pendergast demonstrates how these publications presented masculinity in ways that reflected the magazines' relationship to advertisers, contributors, and readers.
This fascinating study includes such African American magazines as the Colored American, Crisis, Opportunity, and Ebony. Pendergast reasons that the rise of modern masculinity opened the way for African American men to identify with normative masculine values. As white men reinvented the idea of the "self-made man" for a new era, black men struggled to negotiate a meaningful place for black masculinity in a culture intent on denying them access.
The first complete investigation of the representation of men in American magazines, Creating the Modern Man makes an important contribution to our understanding of these publications, both as elements of mass culture and as interesting institutions in their own right. Pendergast takes readers inside the complex world of magazine publishing, demonstrating how magazines slowly yet surely help create the cultural images that shape societal gender roles.
What does it mean to be a "citizen" today, in an age of unbridled consumerism, terrorism, militarism, and multinationalism? In this passionate and dazzling book, Toby Miller dares to answer this question with the depth of thought it deserves. Fast-moving and far-ranging, Cultural Citizenship blends fact, theory, observation, and speculation in a way that continually startles and engages the reader. Although he is unabashedly liberal in his politics, Miller is anything but narrow minded. He looks at media coverage of September 11th and the Iraq invasion as well as "infotainment"—such as Food and Weather channels—to see how U.S. TV is serving its citizens as part of "the global commodity chain." Repeatedly revealing the crushing grip of the invisible hand of television, Miller shows us what we have given up in our drive to acquire and to "belong." For far too long, "cultural citizenship" has been a concept invoked without content. With the publication of this book, it has at last been given flesh and substance.
The English middle class in the late nineteenth century enjoyed an increase in the availability and variety of material goods. With that, the visual markers of class membership and manly behavior underwent a radical change. In The Cut of His Coat: Men, Dress, and Consumer Culture in Britain, 1860–1914, Brent Shannon examines familiar novels by authors such as George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, Thomas Hughes, and H. G. Wells, as well as previously unexamined etiquette manuals, period advertisements, and fashion monthlies, to trace how new ideologies emerged as mass-produced clothes, sartorial markers, and consumer culture began to change.
While Victorian literature traditionally portrayed women as having sole control of class representations through dress and manners, Shannon argues that middle-class men participated vigorously in fashion. Public displays of their newly acquired mannerisms, hairstyles, clothing, and consumer goods redefined masculinity and class status for the Victorian era and beyond.
The Cut of His Coat probes the Victorian disavowal of men’s interest in fashion and shopping to recover men’s significant role in the representation of class through self-presentation and consumer practices.
Paul Gilroy seeks to awaken a new understanding of W. E. B. Du Bois’s intellectual and political legacy. At a time of economic crisis, environmental degradation, ongoing warfare, and heated debate over human rights, how should we reassess the changing place of black culture?
Gilroy considers the ways that consumerism has diverted African Americans’ political and social aspirations. Luxury goods and branded items, especially the automobile—rich in symbolic value and the promise of individual freedom—have restratified society, weakened citizenship, and diminished the collective spirit. Jazz, blues, soul, reggae, and hip hop are now seen as generically American, yet artists like Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, and Bob Marley, who questioned the allure of mobility and speed, are not understood by people who have drained their music of its moral power.
Gilroy explores the way in which objects and technologies can become dynamic social forces, ensuring black culture’s global reach while undermining the drive for equality and justice. Drawing on the work of a number of thinkers, including Michel Foucault, Hannah Arendt, Primo Levi, and Frantz Fanon, he examines the ethical dimensions of living in a society that celebrates the object. What are the implications for our notions of freedom?
With his brilliant, provocative analysis and astonishing range of reference, Gilroy revitalizes the study of African American culture. He traces the shifting character of black intellectual and social movements, and shows how we can construct an account of moral progress that reflects today’s complex realities.
A neglected genre that promises to shed light on the culture of consumption appears in the form of the daytime television game shows whose hegemonic message seems to convey and to justify a widespread obeisance to the mandate of materialism. A close analysis of the longest running game show, The Price Is Right, suggests that all facets of this program combine to reinforce its central meaning as a ritualistic validation of consumption-oriented greed.
An investigation into the politics of consumerism in East Germany during the years between the Berlin Blockade of 1948-49 and the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961, Dictatorship and Demand shows how the issue of consumption constituted a crucial battleground in the larger Cold War struggle.
Based on research in recently opened East German state and party archives, this book depicts a regime caught between competing pressures. While East Germany's leaders followed a Soviet model, which fetishized productivity in heavy industry and prioritized the production of capital goods over consumer goods, they nevertheless had to contend with the growing allure of consumer abundance in West Germany. The usual difficulties associated with satisfying consumer demand in a socialist economy acquired a uniquely heightened political urgency, as millions of East Germans fled across the open border.
A new vision of the East-West conflict emerges, one fought as much with washing machines, televisions, and high fashion as with political propaganda, espionage, and nuclear weapons. Dictatorship and Demand deepens our understanding of the Cold War.
During the mid-twentieth century, Latin American countries witnessed unprecedented struggles over the terms of national sovereignty, civic participation, and social justice. Nowhere was this more visible than in Peronist Argentina (1946–1955), where Juan and Eva Perón led the region’s largest populist movement in pursuit of new political hopes and material desires. Eduardo Elena considers this transformative moment from a fresh perspective by exploring the intersection of populism and mass consumption. He argues that Peronist actors redefined national citizenship around expansive promises of a vida digna (dignified life), which encompassed not only the satisfaction of basic wants, but also the integration of working Argentines into a modern consumer society. From the mid-1940s onward, the state moved to boost purchasing power and impose discipline on the marketplace, all while broadcasting images of a contented populace.
Drawing on documents such as the correspondence between Peronist sympathizers and authorities, Elena sheds light on the contest over the dignified life. He shows how the consumer aspirations of citizens overlapped with Peronist paradigms of state-led development, but not without generating great friction among allies and opposition from diverse sectors of society. Consumer practices encouraged intense public scrutiny of class and gender comportment, and everyday objects became freighted with new cultural meaning. By providing important insights on why Peronism struck such a powerful chord, Dignifying Argentina situates Latin America within the broader history of citizenship and consumption at mid-century, and provides innovative ways to understand the politics of redistribution in the region today.
Zygmunt Bauman is one of the most admired social thinkers of our time. Once a Marxist sociologist, he has surrendered the narrowness of both Marxism and sociology, and dares to write in language that ordinary people can understand—about problems they feel ill equipped to solve. This book is no dry treatise but is instead what Bauman calls “a report from a battlefield,” part of the struggle to find new and adequate ways of thinking about the world in which we live. Rather than searching for solutions to what are perhaps the insoluble problems of the modern world, Bauman proposes that we reframe the way we think about these problems. In an era of routine travel, where most people circulate widely, the inherited beliefs that aid our thinking about the world have become an obstacle.
Bauman seeks to liberate us from the thinking that renders us hopeless in the face of our own domineering governments and threats from unknown forces abroad. He shows us we can give up belief in a hierarchical arrangement of states and powers. He challenges members of the “knowledge class” to overcome their estrangement from the rest of society. Gracefully, provocatively, Bauman urges us to think in new ways about a newly flexible, newly challenging modern world. As Bauman notes, quoting Vaclav Havel, “hope is not a prognostication.” It is, rather, alongside courage and will, a mundane, common weapon that is too seldom used.
In The Ellis Island Snow Globe, Erica Rand, author of the smart and entertaining book Barbie’s Queer Accessories, takes readers on an unconventional tour of Ellis Island, the migration station turned heritage museum, and its neighbor, the Statue of Liberty. By pausing to reflect on what is and is not on display at these two iconic national monuments, Rand focuses attention on whose heritage is honored and whose obscured. She also reveals the shifting connections between sex, money, material products, and ideas of the nation in everything from the ostensible father-mother-child configuration on an Ellis Island golf ball purchased at the gift shop to the multi-million dollar July 4, 1986 Liberty Weekend extravaganza celebrating the Statue’s centennial just days after the Supreme Court’s un-Libertylike decision upholding the antisodomy laws challenged in Bowers v. Hardwick.
Rand notes that portrayals of the Statue of Liberty as a beacon for immigrants tend to suppress the Statue’s connections to people brought to this country by force. She examines what happened to migrants at Ellis Island whose bodies did not match the gender suggested by the clothing they wore. In light of contemporary ideas about safety and security, she examines the “Decide an Immigrant’s Fate” program, which has visitors to Ellis Island act as a 1910 board of inspectors hearing the appeal of an immigrant about to be excluded from the country. Rand is a witty, insightful, and open-minded tour guide, able to synthesize numerous diverse ideas—about tourism, immigration history, sexuality, race, ethnicity, commodity culture, and global capitalism—and to candidly convey her delight in her Ellis Island snow globe. And pen. And lighter. And back scratcher. And golf ball. And glittery pink key chain.
Mike Lala University Press of Colorado, 2016 Library of Congress PS3612.A5428A6 2016 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Published by the Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University Winner of the 2016 Colorado Prize for Poetry
Selected by Tyrone Williams for the 2016 Colorado Prize for Poetry, Exit Theater casts classical elegy, with dazzling formal innovation, into a staggering work of contemporary, political polyphony. Through monologues, performance scripts, and poems of exquisite prosody, Mike Lala examines the human figure—as subject and object, enemy and ally—in the context of a progressively defigured and hostile world. Catullus, Shakespeare, Cy Twombly, and Lydia Delectorskaya echo across engagements with Israeli generals, accused terrorists, State Department employees, nuclear scientists, Saturday Night Live actors, war criminals, malware, and a host of mythic, literary, and half-extant spectral characters. Amid the cacophony, Lala implicates every actor, including himself, in a web of shared culpability vis-à-vis consumerism, representation, speaking, writing, and making art against the backdrop of the endless, open wars of a post–Cold War, post-2001 era. Exit Theater is a debut of and against its time—a book about war, art, and what it means to make art in a time of war.
The Expediency of Culture is a pioneering theorization of the changing role of culture in an increasingly globalized world. George Yúdice explores critically how groups ranging from indigenous activists to nation-states to nongovernmental organizations have all come to see culture as a valuable resource to be invested in, contested, and used for varied sociopolitical and economic ends. Through a dazzling series of illustrative studies, Yúdice challenges the Gramscian notion of cultural struggle for hegemony and instead develops an understanding of culture where cultural agency at every level is negotiated within globalized contexts dominated by the active management and administration of culture. He describes a world where “high” culture (such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain) is a mode of urban development, rituals and everyday aesthetic practices are mobilized to promote tourism and the heritage industries, and mass culture industries comprise significant portions of a number of countries’ gross national products.
Yúdice contends that a new international division of cultural labor has emerged, combining local difference with transnational administration and investment. This does not mean that today’s increasingly transnational culture—exemplified by the entertainment industries and the so-called global civil society of nongovernmental organizations—is necessarily homogenized. He demonstrates that national and regional differences are still functional, shaping the meaning of phenomena from pop songs to antiracist activism. Yúdice considers a range of sites where identity politics and cultural agency are negotiated in the face of powerful transnational forces. He analyzes appropriations of American funk music as well as a citizen action initiative in Rio de Janeiro to show how global notions such as cultural difference are deployed within specific social fields. He provides a political and cultural economy of a vast and increasingly influential art event— insite a triennial festival extending from San Diego to Tijuana. He also reflects on the city of Miami as one of a number of transnational “cultural corridors” and on the uses of culture in an unstable world where censorship and terrorist acts interrupt the usual channels of capitalist and artistic flows.
Brass tinklers and pendants. Owl effigies, copper kettles, crucifixes with blue glass stones. What do they have in common? The answer spans thousands of years and a multitude of peoples and places, and reveals how people made sense of their world as they collected and used the objects they encountered.
Foreign Objects demonstrates the breadth and vibrancy of contemporary archaeology. Taking a broad set of archaeological cases from across the Americas, editor Craig N. Cipolla and the volume contributors explore how indigenous communities have socialized foreign objects over time. The book critiques the artificial divide between prehistory and history, studying instead the long-term indigenous histories of consumption, a term typically associated with capitalism and modern-world colonialism.
The case studies range from “exotic” stone tools used millennia ago to nineteenth-century patent medicines made and marketed by an Indian doctress. Foreign Objects focuses on how indigenous groups and foreign objects became entangled with one another in myriad ways. The book explores how the framework of consumption can shed new light on trade, exchange, materiality, and cultural production.
Contributors place foreign objects in the spotlight and offer a comparison of how this general class of material played a part in indigenous and colonial worlds. Each chapter illustrates how notions of consumption fit into their place in time and also delves into how foreign objects related to ideas of the body and personhood, how people used them to participate in political and spiritual worlds, and how they presented new ways of enduring or resisting European colonialism and capitalism. Foreign Objects is a critical look at consumption through the lens of indigenous knowledge and archaeological theory.
Matthew A. Beaudoin
Kathleen J. Bragdon
Craig N. Cipolla
Charles R. Cobb
John L. Creese
Diana DiPaolo Loren
Meghan C. L. Howey
Barbara J. Mills
Lee M. Panich
Patricia E. Rubertone
Keith D. Stephenson
From “getting loose” to “letting it all hang out,” the 1970s were filled with exhortations to free oneself from artificial restraints and to discover oneself in a more authentic and creative life. In the wake of the counterculture of the 1960s, anything that could be made to yield to a more impulsive vitality was reinvented in a looser way. Food became purer, clothing more revealing, sex more orgiastic, and home decor more rustic and authentic.
Through a sociological analysis of the countercultural print culture of the 1970s, Sam Binkley investigates the dissemination of these self-loosening narratives and their widespread appeal to America’s middle class. He describes the rise of a genre of lifestyle publishing that emerged from a network of small offbeat presses, mostly located on the West Coast. Amateurish and rough in production quality, these popular books and magazines blended Eastern mysticism, Freudian psychology, environmental ecology, and romantic American pastoralism as they offered “expert” advice—about how to be more in touch with the natural world, how to release oneself into trusting relationships with others, and how to delve deeper into the body’s rhythms and natural sensuality. Binkley examines dozens of these publications, including the Whole Earth Catalog, Rainbook, the Catalog of Sexual Consciousness, Celery Wine, Domebook, and Getting Clear.
Drawing on the thought of Pierre Bourdieu, Zygmunt Bauman, and others, Binkley explains how self-loosening narratives helped the middle class confront the modernity of the 1970s. As rapid social change and political upheaval eroded middle-class cultural authority, the looser life provided opportunities for self-reinvention through everyday lifestyle choice. He traces this ethos of self-realization through the “yuppie” 1980s to the 1990s and today, demonstrating that what originated as an emancipatory call to loosen up soon evolved into a culture of highly commercialized consumption and lifestyle branding.
From Henry David Thoreau to Bill McKibben, critics and philosophers have long sought to demonstrate how a sufficient life—one without constant, environmentally damaging growth—might still be rich and satisfying. Yet one crucial episode in the history of sufficiency has been largely forgotten. Green Victorians tells the story of a circle of men and women in the English Lake District who attempted to create a new kind of economy, turning their backs on Victorian consumer society in order to live a life dependent not on material abundance and social prestige but on artful simplicity and the bonds of community.
At the center of their social experiment was the charismatic art critic and political economist John Ruskin. Albritton and Albritton Jonsson show how Ruskin’s followers turned his theory into practice in a series of ambitious local projects ranging from hand spinning and woodworking to gardening, archaeology, and pedagogy. This is a lively yet unsettling story, for there was a dark side to Ruskin’s community as well—racist thinking, paternalism, and technophobia. Richly illustrated, Green Victorians breaks new ground, connecting the ideas and practices of Ruskin’s utopian community with the problems of ethical consumption then and now.
Hegemony tells the story of the drive to create consumer capitalism abroad through political pressure and the promise of goods for mass consumption. In contrast to the recent literature on America as empire, it explains that the primary goal of the foreign and economic policies of the United States is a world which increasingly reflects the American way of doing business, not the formation or management of an empire. Contextualizing both the Iraq war and recent plant closings in the U.S., noted author John Agnew shows how American hegemony has created a world in which power is no longer only shaped territorially. He argues in a sobering conclusion that we are consequently entering a new era of global power, one in which the world the US has made no longer works to its singular advantage.
Identifying Consumption illustrates how an individual’s buying habits are shaped by the dynamics of the consumer marketplace—and thus how consumption and identity inform each other. Robert Dunn brings together the various theories of spending and develops a mode of analysis concentrating on the individual subjectivity of consumption. By doing so, he addresses how we spend and its relationship with status and lifestyle.
Dunn provides a comprehensive guide to the study of modern consumer behavior before summarizing and critiquing the major theories of consumption. At this juncture, he proposes a method of analysis that focuses on the significance of status and lifestyle in social relations that can help explain how the consumer marketplace is shaped. He concludes by raising issues about different ways of consuming and the relationship between consumption and identity.
Robust and reliable measures of consumer expenditures are essential for analyzing aggregate economic activity and for measuring differences in household circumstances. Many countries, including the United States, are embarking on ambitious projects to redesign surveys of consumer expenditures, with the goal of better capturing economic heterogeneity. This is an appropriate time to examine the way consumer expenditures are currently measured, and the challenges and opportunities that alternative approaches might present.
Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures begins with a comprehensive review of current methodologies for collecting consumer expenditure data. Subsequent chapters highlight the range of different objectives that expenditure surveys may satisfy, compare the data available from consumer expenditure surveys with that available from other sources, and describe how the United States’s current survey practices compare with those in other nations.
The most significant conquest of the twentieth century may well have been the triumph of American consumer society over Europe’s bourgeois civilization. It is this little-understood but world-shaking campaign that unfolds in Irresistible Empire, Victoria de Grazia’s brilliant account of how the American standard of living defeated the European way of life and achieved the global cultural hegemony that is both its great strength and its key weakness today.
De Grazia describes how, as America’s market empire advanced with confidence through Europe, spreading consumer-oriented capitalism, all alternative strategies fell before it—first the bourgeois lifestyle, then the Third Reich’s command consumption, and finally the grand experiment of Soviet-style socialist planning. Tracing the peculiar alliance that arrayed New World salesmanship, statecraft, and standardized goods against the Old World’s values of status, craft, and good taste, Victoria de Grazia follows the United States’ market-driven imperialism through a vivid series of cross-Atlantic incursions by the great inventions of American consumer society. We see Rotarians from Duluth in the company of the high bourgeoisie of Dresden; working-class spectators in ramshackle French theaters conversing with Garbo and Bogart; Stetson-hatted entrepreneurs from Kansas in the midst of fussy Milanese shoppers; and, against the backdrop of Rome’s Spanish Steps and Paris’s Opera Comique, Fast Food in a showdown with advocates for Slow Food. Demonstrating the intricacies of America’s advance, de Grazia offers an intimate and historical dimension to debates over America’s exercise of soft power and the process known as Americanization. She raises provocative questions about the quality of the good life, democracy, and peace that issue from the vaunted victory of mass consumer culture.
Published in cooperation with the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University.
In Land of Necessity, historians and anthropologists unravel the interplay of the national and transnational and of scarcity and abundance in the region split by the 1,969-mile boundary line dividing Mexico and the United States. This richly illustrated volume, with more than 100 images including maps, photographs, and advertisements, explores the convergence of broad demographic, economic, political, cultural, and transnational developments resulting in various forms of consumer culture in the borderlands. Though its importance is uncontestable, the role of necessity in consumer culture has rarely been explored. Indeed, it has been argued that where necessity reigns, consumer culture is anemic. This volume demonstrates otherwise. In doing so, it sheds new light on the history of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, while also opening up similar terrain for scholarly inquiry into consumer culture.
The volume opens with two chapters that detail the historical trajectories of consumer culture and the borderlands. In the subsequent chapters, contributors take up subjects including smuggling, tourist districts and resorts, purchasing power, and living standards. Others address home décor, housing, urban development, and commercial real estate, while still others consider the circulation of cinematic images, contraband, used cars, and clothing. Several contributors discuss the movement of people across borders, within cities, and in retail spaces. In the two afterwords, scholars reflect on the U.S.-Mexico borderlands as a particular site of trade in labor, land, leisure, and commodities, while also musing about consumer culture as a place of complex political and economic negotiations. Through its focus on the borderlands, this volume provides valuable insight into the historical and contemporary aspects of the big “isms” shaping modern life: capitalism, nationalism, transnationalism, globalism, and, without a doubt, consumerism.
Contributors. Josef Barton, Peter S. Cahn, Howard Campbell, Lawrence Culver, Amy S. Greenberg, Josiah McC. Heyman, Sarah Hill, Alexis McCrossen, Robert Perez, Laura Isabel Serna, Rachel St. John, Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo, Evan R. Ward
Liberalization’s Children explores how youth and gender have become crucial sites for a contested cultural politics of globalization in India. Popular discourses draw a contrast between “midnight’s children,” who were rooted in post-independence Nehruvian developmentalism, and “liberalization’s children,” who are global in outlook and unapologetically consumerist. Moral panics about beauty pageants and the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day reflect ambivalence about the impact of an expanding commodity culture, especially on young women. By simply highlighting the triumph of consumerism, such discourses obscure more than they reveal. Through a careful analysis of “consumer citizenship,” Ritty A. Lukose argues that the breakdown of the Nehruvian vision connects with ongoing struggles over the meanings of public life and the cultural politics of belonging. Those struggles play out in the ascendancy of Hindu nationalism; reconfigurations of youthful, middle-class femininity; attempts by the middle class to alter understandings of citizenship; and assertions of new forms of masculinity by members of lower castes.
Moving beyond elite figurations of globalizing Indian youth, Lukose draws on ethnographic research to examine how non-elite college students in the southern state of Kerala mediate region, nation, and globe. Kerala sits at the crossroads of development and globalization. Held up as a model of left-inspired development, it has also been transformed through an extensive and largely non-elite transnational circulation of labor, money, and commodities to the Persian Gulf and elsewhere. Focusing on fashion, romance, student politics, and education, Lukose carefully tracks how gender, caste, and class, as well as colonial and postcolonial legacies of culture and power, affect how students navigate their roles as citizens and consumers. She explores how mass-mediation and an expanding commodity culture have differentially incorporated young people into the structures and aspirational logics of globalization.
One of the cliches that Singaporeans hold most dear is that their lives are a pursuit of the five c's: cash, cars, condominiums, credit cards, and club memberships. Over the last thirty years, Singaporeans have become accustomed to ever-increasing levels
Corporate power has a huge impact on the rights and privileges of individuals—as workers, consumers, and citizens. This book explores the myth of individualism, which makes people perceive themselves as having choices, when in fact most peoples' options are very limited.
Perelman describes the manufacture of unhappiness—the continual generation of dissatisfaction with products people are encouraged to purchase and quickly discard—and the complex techniques corporations employ to avoid responsibility and accountability to their workers, consumers and the environment. He outlines ways in which individuals can surpass individualism and instead work together to check the growing power of corporations.
While other books have surveyed the corporate landscape, or decried modern consumerism, Perelman, a professor of economics, places these ideas within a proper economic and historical context. He explores the limits of corporate accountability and responsibility, and investigates the relation between a wide range of phenomena such as food, fear and terrorism. Highly readable, Manufacturing Discontent will appeal to anyone with an interest in the way society works—and what really determines the rights of individuals in a corporate society.
Michael Perelman, Professor of Economics at California State University, Chico, received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of several books on economics and economic thought, including Railroading Economics (Routledge, 2006); Class Warfare in the Information Age (Palgrave Macmillan, 2000); The Invention of Capitalism (Duke University Press, 2000) and The Perverse Economy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).
In Market Encounters, Bianca Murillo explores the shifting social terrains that made the buying and selling of goods in modern Ghana possible. Fusing economic and business history with social and cultural history, she traces the evolution of consumerism in the colonial Gold Coast and independent Ghana from the late nineteenth century through to the political turmoil of the 1970s.
Murillo brings sales clerks, market women, and everyday consumers in Ghana to the center of a story that is all too often told in sweeping metanarratives about what happens when African businesses are incorporated into global markets. By emphasizing the centrality of human relationships to Ghana’s economic past, Murillo introduces a radical rethinking of consumption studies from an Africa-centered perspective. The result is a keen look at colonial capitalism in all of its intricacies, legacies, and contradictions, including its entanglement with gender and race.
In 1989 news broadcasts all over the world were dominated for weeks by images of East Germans crossing the Berlin Wall to West Germany. But what did the East Germans expect to find when they excitedly broke through the Wall? And what did they actually find when they made it over to the other side? This study draws on fifteen months of research into both the lives of East Germans before the fall of communism and their fast-changing world after they embraced capitalism. Grounded in powerful anthropological insights, Milena Veenis argues persuasively that national identifications and the bond between state and citizenry in both East and West Germany over the past twenty years has been shaped by the far-fetched, socialist and capitalist promises of consumption as the road to ultimate well-being. These promises also functioned as a way to cover up the more shameful and dirty aspects of both countries’ history and social life.
During the 1920s and 1930s, in cities from Beijing to Bombay, Tokyo to Berlin, Johannesburg to New York, the Modern Girl made her sometimes flashy, always fashionable appearance in city streets and cafes, in films, advertisements, and illustrated magazines. Modern Girls wore sexy clothes and high heels; they applied lipstick and other cosmetics. Dressed in provocative attire and in hot pursuit of romantic love, Modern Girls appeared on the surface to disregard the prescribed roles of dutiful daughter, wife, and mother. Contemporaries debated whether the Modern Girl was looking for sexual, economic, or political emancipation, or whether she was little more than an image, a hollow product of the emerging global commodity culture. The contributors to this collection track the Modern Girl as she emerged as a global phenomenon in the interwar period.
Scholars of history, women’s studies, literature, and cultural studies follow the Modern Girl around the world, analyzing her manifestations in Germany, Australia, China, Japan, France, India, the United States, Russia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Along the way, they demonstrate how the economic structures and cultural flows that shaped a particular form of modern femininity crossed national and imperial boundaries. In so doing, they highlight the gendered dynamics of interwar processes of racial formation, showing how images and ideas of the Modern Girl were used to shore up or critique nationalist and imperial agendas. A mix of collaborative and individually authored chapters, the volume concludes with commentaries by Kathy Peiss, Miriam Silverberg, and Timothy Burke.
Contributors: Davarian L. Baldwin, Tani E. Barlow, Timothy Burke, Liz Conor, Madeleine Yue Dong, Anne E. Gorsuch, Ruri Ito, Kathy Peiss, Uta G. Poiger, Priti Ramamurthy, Mary Louise Roberts, Barbara Sato, Miriam Silverberg, Lynn M. Thomas, Alys Eve Weinbaum
An important part of the New Deal, the Modernization Credit Plan helped transform urban business districts and small-town commercial strips across 1930s America, but it has since been almost completely forgotten. In Modernizing Main Street, Gabrielle Esperdy uncovers the cultural history of the hundreds of thousands of modernized storefronts that resulted from the little-known federal provision that made billions of dollars available to shop owners who wanted to update their facades.
Esperdy argues that these updated storefronts served a range of complex purposes, such as stimulating public consumption, extending the New Deal’s influence, reviving a stagnant construction industry, and introducing European modernist design to the everyday landscape. She goes on to show that these diverse roles are inseparable, woven together not only by the crisis of the Depression, but also by the pressures of bourgeoning consumerism. As the decade’s two major cultural forces, Esperdy concludes, consumerism and the Depression transformed the storefront from a seemingly insignificant element of the built environment into a potent site for the physical and rhetorical staging of recovery and progress.
The Motherhood Business is a piercing collection of ten original essays that reveal the rhetoric of the motherhood industry. Focusing on the consumer life of mothers and the emerging entrepreneurship associated with motherhood, the collection considers how different forms of privilege (class, race, and nationality) inform discourses about mothering, consumption, mobility, and leisure.
The Motherhood Business follows the harried mother’s path into the anxious maelstrom of intelligent toys, healthy foods and meals, and educational choices. It also traces how some enterprising mothers leverage cultural capital and rhetorical vision to create thriving baby- and child-based businesses of their own, as evidenced by the rise of mommy bloggers and “mompreneurs”over the last decade.
Starting with the rapidly expanding global fertility market, The Motherhood Business explores the intersection of motherhood, consumption, and privilege in the context of fertility tourism, international adoption, and transnational surrogacy. The synergy between motherhood and the marketplace demonstrated across the essays affirms the stronghold of “intensive mothering ideology” in decisions over what mothers buy and how they brand their businesses even as that ideology evolves. Across diverse contexts, the volume also identifies how different forms or privilege shape how mothers construct their identities through their consumption and entrepreneurship.
Although social observers have long commented on the link between motherhood and consumerism, little has been written within the field of rhetoric. Penetrating and interdisciplinary, The Motherhood Business illuminates how consumer culture not only shapes contemporary motherhood but also changes in response to mothers who constitute a driving force of the economy.
Unconventional and provocative, My Life with Things is Elizabeth Chin's meditation on her relationship with consumer goods and a critical statement on the politics and method of anthropology. Chin centers the book on diary entries that focus on everyday items—kitchen cabinet knobs, shoes, a piano—and uses them to intimately examine the ways consumption resonates with personal and social meaning: from writing love haikus about her favorite nail polish and discussing the racial implications of her tooth cap, to revealing how she used shopping to cope with a miscarriage and contemplating how her young daughter came to think that she needed Lunesta. Throughout, Chin keeps Karl Marx and his family's relationship to their possessions in mind, drawing parallels between Marx's napkins, the production of late nineteenth-century table linens, and Chin's own vintage linen collection. Unflinchingly and refreshingly honest, Chin unlocks the complexities of her attachments to, reliance on, and complicated relationships with her things. In so doing, she prompts readers to reconsider their own consumption, as well as their assumptions about the possibilities for creative scholarship.
While overconsumption by the developed world's roughly one billion inhabitants is an abiding problem, another one billion increasingly affluent "new consumers" in developing countries will place additional strains on the earth's resources, argue authors Norman Myers and Jennifer Kent in this important new book.
The New Consumers examines the environmental impacts of this increased consumption, with particular focus on two commodities -- cars and meat -- that stand to have the most far-reaching effects. It analyzes consumption patterns in a number of different countries, with special emphasis on China and India (whose surging economies, as well as their large populations, are likely to account for exceptional growth in humanity's ecological footprint), and surveys big-picture issues such as the globalization of economies, consumer goods, and lifestyles. Ultimately, according to the orman Myers and Jennifer Kent, the challenge will be for all of humanity to transition to sustainable levels of consumption, for it is unrealistic to expect "new" consumers not to aspire to be like the "old" ones.
Cogent in its analysis, The New Consumers issues a timely warning of a major and developing environmental trend, and suggests valuable strategies for ameliorating its effects.
How abolitionist businesses marshaled intense moral outrage over slavery to shape a new ethics of international commerce.
“East India Sugar Not Made By Slaves.” With these words on a sugar bowl, consumers of the early nineteenth century declared their power to change the global economy. Bronwen Everill examines how abolitionists from Europe to the United States to West Africa used new ideas of supply and demand, consumer credit, and branding to shape an argument for ethical capitalism.
Everill focuses on the everyday economy of the Atlantic world. Antislavery affected business operations, as companies in West Africa, including the British firm Macaulay & Babington and the American partnership of Brown & Ives, developed new tactics in order to make “legitimate” commerce pay. Everill explores how the dilemmas of conducting ethical commerce reshaped the larger moral discourse surrounding production and consumption, influencing how slavery and freedom came to be defined in the market economy. But ethical commerce was not without its ironies; the search for supplies of goods “not made by slaves”—including East India sugar—expanded the reach of colonial empires in the relentless pursuit of cheap but “free” labor.
Not Made by Slaves illuminates the early years of global consumer society, while placing the politics of antislavery firmly in the history of capitalism. It is also a stark reminder that the struggle to ensure fair trade and labor conditions continues.
Named a Notable Book for 2005 by the American Library Association, One with Nineveh is a fresh synthesis of the major issues of our time, now brought up to date with an afterword for the paperback edition. Through lucid explanations, telling anecdotes, and incisive analysis, the book spotlights the three elephants in our global living room-rising consumption, still-growing world population, and unchecked political and economic inequity-that together are increasingly shaping today's politics and humankind's future. One with Nineveh brilliantly puts today's political and environmental debates in a larger context and offers some bold proposals for improving our future prospect.
What determines whether children grow up to be rich or poor? Arguing that parental actions are some of the most important sources of wealth inequality, Casey B. Mulligan investigates the transmission of economic status from one generation to the next by constructing an economic model of parental preferences.
In Mulligan's model, parents determine the degree of their altruistic concern for their children and spend time with and resources on them accordingly—just as they might make choices about how they spend money. Mulligan tests his model against both old and new evidence on the intergenerational transmission of consumption, earnings, and wealth, including models that emphasize "financial constraints." One major prediction of Mulligan's model confirmed by the evidence is that children of wealthy parents typically spend more than they earn.
Mulligan's innovative approach can also help explain other important behavior, such as charitable giving and "corporate loyalty," and will appeal to a wide range of quantitatively oriented social scientists and sociobiologists.
Much has been written about the workings of communist governments in the USSR and the Soviet bloc, yet there is still a great deal to explore regarding their relationship to the everyday lives of the citizens living under them. This third volume builds on the editors’ Style and Socialism and Socialist Spaces, showing how the rise of consumer culture took a unique form in these countries.
Essays from top scholars address topics ranging from fashion and game shows to smoking and camping. The authors of the essays in this collection investigate the ways in which pleasurable activities, like many other facets of daily life, were both a space in which these communist governments tried to insinuate themselves and thereby further expand the reach of their authority,
and also an opportunity for people to assert their individuality.
The disparity between rich and poor countries is the most serious, intractable problem facing the world today. The chronic poverty of many nations affects more than the citizens and economies of those nations; it threatens global stability as the pressures of immigration become unsustainable and rogue nations seek power and influence through extreme political and terrorist acts. To address this tenacious poverty, a vast array of international institutions has pumped billions of dollars into these nations in recent decades, yet despite this infusion of capital and attention, roughly five billion of the world's six billion people continue to live in poor countries. What isn't working? And how can we fix it?
The Power of Productivity provides powerful and controversial answers to these questions. William W. Lewis, the director emeritus of the McKinsey Global Institute, here draws on extensive microeconomic studies of thirteen nations over twelve years—conducted by the Institute itself—to counter virtually all prevailing wisdom about how best to ameliorate economic disparity. Lewis's research, which included studying everything from state-of-the-art auto makers to black-market street vendors and mom-and-pop stores, conclusively demonstrates that, contrary to popular belief, providing more capital to poor nations is not the best way to help them. Nor is improving levels of education, exchange-rate flexibility, or government solvency enough. Rather, the key to improving economic conditions in poor countries, argues Lewis, is increasing productivity through intense, fair competition and protecting consumer rights.
As The Power of Productivity explains, this sweeping solution affects the economies of poor nations at all levels—from the viability of major industries to how the average consumer thinks about his or her purchases. Policies must be enacted in developing nations that reflect a consumer rather than a producer mindset and an attendant sense of consumer rights. Only one force, Lewis claims, can stand up to producer special privileges—consumer interests.
The Institute's unprecedented research method and Lewis's years of experience with economic policy combine to make The Power of Productivity the most authoritative and compelling view of the global economy today, one that will inform political and economic debate throughout the world for years to come.
Race has long shaped shopping experiences for many Americans. Retail exchanges and establishments have made headlines as flashpoints for conflict not only between blacks and whites, but also between whites, Mexicans, Asian Americans, and a wide variety of other ethnic groups, who have at times found themselves unwelcome at white-owned businesses.
Race and Retail documents the extent to which retail establishments, both past and present, have often catered to specific ethnic and racial groups. Using an interdisciplinary approach, the original essays collected here explore selling and buying practices of nonwhite populations around the world and the barriers that shape these habits, such as racial discrimination, food deserts, and gentrification. The contributors highlight more contemporary issues by raising questions about how race informs business owners’ ideas about consumer demand, resulting in substandard quality and higher prices for minorities than in predominantly white neighborhoods. In a wide-ranging exploration of the subject, they also address revitalization and gentrification in South Korean and Latino neighborhoods in California, Arab and Turkish coffeehouses and hookah lounges in South Paterson, New Jersey, and tourist capoeira consumption in Brazil.
Race and Retail illuminates the complex play of forces at work in racialized retail markets and the everyday impact of those forces on minority consumers. The essays demonstrate how past practice remains in force in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
Over the past half-century, bookselling, like many retail industries, has evolved from an arena dominated by independent bookstores to one in which chain stores have significant market share. And as in other areas of retail, this transformation has often been a less-than-smooth process. This has been especially pronounced in bookselling, argues Laura J. Miller, because more than most other consumer goods, books are the focus of passionate debate. What drives that debate? And why do so many people believe that bookselling should be immune to questions of profit?
In Reluctant Capitalists, Miller looks at a century of book retailing, demonstrating that the independent/chain dynamic is not entirely new. It began one hundred years ago when department stores began selling books, continued through the 1960s with the emergence of national chain stores, and exploded with the formation of “superstores” in the 1990s. The advent of the Internet has further spurred tremendous changes in how booksellers approach their business. All of these changes have met resistance from book professionals and readers who believe that the book business should somehow be “above” market forces and instead embrace more noble priorities.
Miller uses interviews with bookstore customers and members of the book industry to explain why books evoke such distinct and heated reactions. She reveals why customers have such fierce loyalty to certain bookstores and why they identify so strongly with different types of books. In the process, she also teases out the meanings of retailing and consumption in American culture at large, underscoring her point that any type of consumer behavior is inevitably political, with consequences for communities as well as commercial institutions.
Under capitalism, economic growth is seen as the key to collective well-being. In Self-Devouring Growth Julie Livingston upends this notion, showing that while consumption-driven growth may seem to benefit a particular locale, it produces a number of unacknowledged, negative consequences that ripple throughout the wider world. Structuring the book as a parable in which the example of Botswana has lessons for the rest of the globe, Livingston shows how fundamental needs for water, food, and transportation become harnessed to what she calls self-devouring growth: an unchecked and unsustainable global pursuit of economic growth that threatens catastrophic environmental destruction. As Livingston notes, improved technology alone cannot stave off such destruction; what is required is a greater accounting of the web of relationships between humans, nonhuman beings, plants, and minerals that growth entails. Livingston contends that by failing to understand these relationships and the consequences of self-devouring growth, we may be unknowingly consuming our future.
The sheer intensity and violence of Germany’s twentieth century—through the end of an empire, two world wars, two democracies, and two dictatorships—provide a unique opportunity to assess the power and endurance of commercial imagery in the most extreme circumstances. Selling Modernity places advertising and advertisements in this tumultuous historical setting, exploring such themes as the relationship between advertising and propaganda in Nazi Germany, the influence of the United States on German advertising, the use of advertising to promote mass consumption in West Germany, and the ideological uses and eventual prohibition of advertising in East Germany.
While the essays are informed by the burgeoning literature on consumer society, Selling Modernity focuses on the actors who had the greatest stake in successful merchandising: company managers, advertising executives, copywriters, graphic artists, market researchers, and salespeople, all of whom helped shape the depiction of a company’s products, reputation, and visions of modern life. The contributors consider topics ranging from critiques of capitalism triggered by the growth of advertising in the 1890s to the racial politics of Coca-Cola’s marketing strategies during the Nazi era, and from the post-1945 career of an erotica entrepreneur to a federal anti-drug campaign in West Germany. Whether analyzing the growing fascination with racialized discourse reflected in early-twentieth-century professional advertising journals or the postwar efforts of Lufthansa to lure holiday and business travelers back to a country associated with mass murder, the contributors reveal advertising’s central role in debates about German culture, business, politics, and society.
Contributors. Shelley Baranowski, Greg Castillo, Victoria de Grazia, Guillaume de Syon, Holm Friebe, Rainer Gries, Elizabeth Heineman, Michael Imort, Anne Kaminsky, Kevin Repp , Corey Ross, Jeff Schutts, Robert P. Stephens, Pamela E. Swett, S. Jonathan Wiesen, Jonathan R. Zatlin
Marjorie L. Hilton presents a captivating history of consumer culture in Russia from the 1880s to the early 1930s. She highlights the critical role of consumerism as a vehicle for shaping class and gender identities, modernity, urbanism, and as a mechanism of state power in the transition from tsarist autocracy to Soviet socialism.
Beginning in the late nineteenth century, Russia witnessed a rise in mass production, consumer goods, advertising, and new retail venues such as arcades and department stores. These mirrored similar developments in other European countries and reflected a growing quest for leisure activities, luxuries, and a modern lifestyle. As Hilton reveals, retail commerce played a major role in developing Russian public culture—it affected celebrations of religious holidays, engaged diverse groups of individuals, defined behaviors and rituals of city life, inspired new interpretations of masculinity and femininity, and became a visible symbol of state influence and provision.
Through monarchies, revolution, civil war, and monumental changes in the political sphere, Russia’s distinctive culture of consumption was contested and recreated. Leaders of all stripes continued to look to the “commerce of exchange” as a key element in appealing to the masses, garnering political support, and promoting a modern nation.
Hilton follows the evolution of retailing and retailers alike, from crude outdoor stalls to elite establishments; through the competition of private versus state-run stores during the NEP; and finally to a system of total state control, indifferent workers, rationing, and shortages under a consolidating Stalinist state.
A leading Bombay advertising agency justifies as traditionally Indian the highly eroticized images it produces to promote the KamaSutra condom brand. Another agency struggles to reconcile the global ambitions of a cellular-phone service provider with the ambivalently local connotations of the client’s corporate brand. When the dream of the 250 million-strong “Indian middle class” goes sour, Indian advertising and marketing professionals search for new ways to market “the Indian consumer”—now with added cultural difference—to multinational clients.
An examination of the complex cultural politics of mass consumerism in a globalized marketplace, Shoveling Smoke is a pathbreaking and detailed ethnography of the contemporary Indian advertising industry. It is also a critical and innovative intervention into current theoretical debates on the intersection of consumerist globalization, aesthetic politics, and visual culture. William Mazzarella traces the rise in India during the 1980s of mass consumption as a self-consciously sensuous challenge to the austerities of state-led developmentalism. He shows how the decisive opening of Indian markets to foreign brands in the 1990s refigured established models of the relationship between the local and the global and, ironically, turned advertising professionals into custodians of cultural integrity.
Most narratives depict Soviet Cold War cultural activities and youth groups as drab and dreary, militant and politicized. In this study Gleb Tsipursky challenges these stereotypes in a revealing portrayal of Soviet youth and state-sponsored popular culture.
The primary local venues for Soviet culture were the tens of thousands of klubs where young people found entertainment, leisure, social life, and romance. Here sports, dance, film, theater, music, lectures, and political meetings became vehicles to disseminate a socialist version of modernity. The Soviet way of life was dutifully presented and perceived as the most progressive and advanced, in an attempt to stave off Western influences. In effect, socialist fun became very serious business. As Tsipursky shows, however, Western culture did infiltrate these activities, particularly at local levels, where participants and organizers deceptively cloaked their offerings to appeal to their own audiences. Thus, Soviet modernity evolved as a complex and multivalent ideological device.
Tsipursky provides a fresh and original examination of the Kremlin’s paramount effort to shape young lives, consumption, popular culture, and to build an emotional community—all against the backdrop of Cold War struggles to win hearts and minds both at home and abroad.
From 1840 to 1900, midwestern Americans experienced firsthand the profound economic, cultural, and structural changes that transformed the nation from a premodern, agrarian state to one that was urban, industrial, and economically interdependent. Midwestern commercial farmers found themselves at the heart of these changes. Their actions and reactions led to the formation of a distinctive and particularly democratic consumer ethos, which is still being played out today.
By focusing on the consumer behavior of midwestern farmers, Sowing the American Dream provides illustrative examples of how Americans came to terms with the economic and ideological changes that swirled around them. From the formation of the Grange to the advent of mail-order catalogs, the buying patterns of rural midwesterners set the stage for the coming century.
Carefully documenting the rise and fall of the powerful purchasing cooperatives, David Blanke explains the shifting trends in collective consumerism, which ultimately resulted in a significant change in the way that midwestern consumers pursued their own regional identity, community, and independence.
Many consumers feel powerless in the face of big industry’s interests. And the dominant view of economic regulators (influenced by Mancur Olson’s book The Logic of Collective Action, published in 1965) agrees with them. According to this view, diffuse interests like those of consumers are too difficult to organize and too weak to influence public policy, which is determined by the concentrated interests of industrial-strength players. Gunnar Trumbull makes the case that this view represents a misreading of both the historical record and the core logic of interest representation. Weak interests, he reveals, quite often emerge the victors in policy battles.
Based on a cross-national set of empirical case studies focused on the consumer, retail, credit, pharmaceutical, and agricultural sectors, Strength in Numbers develops an alternative model of interest representation. The central challenge in influencing public policy, Trumbull argues, is not organization but legitimation. How do diffuse consumer groups convince legislators that their aims are more legitimate than industry’s? By forging unlikely alliances among the main actors in the process: activists, industry, and regulators. Trumbull explains how these “legitimacy coalitions” form around narratives that tie their agenda to a broader public interest, such as expanded access to goods or protection against harm. Successful legitimizing tactics explain why industry has been less powerful than is commonly thought in shaping agricultural policy in Europe and pharmaceutical policy in the United States. In both instances, weak interests carried the day.
Chocolate and sugar, alcohol and tobacco, peyote and hallucinogenic mushrooms—these seductive substances have been a nexus of desire for both pleasure and profit in Mesoamerica since colonial times. But how did these substances seduce? And when and how did they come to be desired and then demanded, even by those who had never encountered them before? The contributors to this volume explore these questions across a range of times, places, and peoples to discover how the individual pleasures of consumption were shaped by social, cultural, economic, and political forces.
Focusing on ingestible substances as a group, which has not been done before in the scholarly literature, the chapters in Substance and Seduction trace three key links between colonization and commodification. First, as substances that were taken into the bodies of both colonizers and colonized, these foods and drugs participated in unexpected connections among sites of production and consumption; racial and ethnic categories; and free, forced, and enslaved labor regimes. Second, as commodities developed in the long transition from mercantile to modern capitalism, each substance in some way drew its enduring power from its ability to seduce: to stimulate bodies; to alter minds; to mark class, social, and ethnic boundaries; and to generate wealth. Finally, as objects of scholarly inquiry, each substance rewards interdisciplinary approaches that balance the considerations of pleasure and profit, materiality and morality, and culture and political economy.
A timely examination of the attachments we form to objects and how they might be used to reduce waste
Rampant consumerism has inundated our planet with pollution and waste. Yet attempts to create environmentally friendly forms of consumption are often co-opted by corporations looking to sell us more stuff. In Things Worth Keeping, Christine Harold investigates the attachments we form to the objects we buy, keep, and discard, and explores how these attachments might be marshaled to create less wasteful practices and balance our consumerist and ecological impulses.
Although all economies produce waste, no system generates as much or has become so adept at hiding its excesses as today’s mode of global capitalism. This book suggests that managing the material excesses of our lives as consumers requires us to build on, rather than reject, our desire for and attraction to objects. Increasing environmental awareness on its own will be ineffective at reversing ecological devastation, Harold argues, unless it is coupled with a more thorough understanding of how and why we love the things that imbue our lives with pleasure, meaning, and utility.
From Marie Kondo’s method for decluttering that asks whether the things in our lives “spark joy” to the advent of emotionally durable design, which seeks to reduce consumption and waste by increasing the meaningfulness of the relationship between user and product, Harold explores how consumer psychology and empathetic design can transform our perception of consumer products from disposable to interconnected. An urgent call for rethinking consumerism, Things Worth Keeping shows that by recognizing our responsibility for the things we produce, we can become better stewards of the planet.
Thrift: A Cyclopedia
David Blankenhorn Templeton Press, 2008 Library of Congress HC110.C6B57 2008 | Dewey Decimal 332.0240097303
In today's consumer-driven society, extolling the virtues of thrift might seem like a quaint relic of a bygone era. Americans have embraced the ideas of easy credit, instant gratification, and spending as a tool to combat everything from recessions to the effects of natural disasters and terrorist attacks. In David Blankenhorn's new compendium, Thrift: A Cyclopedia, he reminds readers of a time when thrift was one of America's most cherished cultural values.
Gathering hundreds of quotes, sayings, proverbs, and photographs of Blankenhorn's vast personal collection of thrift memorabilia, this handsome book is a treasure trove of wisdom from around the world and throughout the ages. Readers will find insights from such varied sources as the Bible, the Qur'an, William Shakespeare, Karl Marx, Oscar Wilde, J. C. Penney, and Warren Buffett. Entries are serious, inspiring, occasionally humorous, and they will go a great way toward expanding the narrow perception of thrift as simple penny pinching; replacing that myopic view with one of a broader thrift—one that, as William H. Kniffen puts it, "earns largely and spends wisely" and leads to a life of independence and comfort well into old age.
Educators and parents will find ample wisdom to pass on to the next generation about the value of hard work, saving for the future, and generosity. Historians will delight in the glimpses into the U.S. thrift movement of the 1920s. Those seeking encouragement and inspiration will find much material here for reflection on the ideals of good stewardship, diligence, and sound financial planning. As our society ails from wastefulness, growing economic inequality, indebtedness, and runaway consumerism, there could be no stronger cure than this powerful little word, "thrift", which finds its root meaning in the word "thrive."
Modern life is full of stuff yet bereft of time. An economic sociologist offers an ingenious explanation for why, over the past seventy-five years, Americans have come to prefer consumption to leisure.
Productivity has increased steadily since the mid-twentieth century, yet Americans today work roughly as much as they did then: forty hours per week. We have witnessed, during this same period, relentless growth in consumption. This pattern represents a striking departure from the preceding century, when working hours fell precipitously. It also contradicts standard economic theory, which tells us that increasing consumption yields diminishing marginal utility, and empirical research, which shows that work is a significant source of discontent. So why do we continue to trade our time for more stuff?
Time for Things offers a novel explanation for this puzzle. Stephen Rosenberg argues that, during the twentieth century, workers began to construe consumer goods as stores of potential free time to rationalize the exchange of their labor for a wage. For example, when a worker exchanges his labor for an automobile, he acquires a duration of free activity that can be held in reserve, counterbalancing the unfree activity represented by work. This understanding of commodities as repositories of hypothetical utility was made possible, Rosenberg suggests, by the standardization of durable consumer goods, as well as warranties, brands, and product-testing, which assured wage earners that the goods they purchased would be of consistent, measurable quality.
This theory clarifies perplexing aspects of behavior under industrial capitalism—the urgency to spend earnings on things, the preference to own rather than rent consumer goods—as well as a variety of historical developments, including the coincident rise of mass consumption and the legitimation of wage labor.
In Tourists of History, the cultural critic Marita Sturken argues that over the past two decades, Americans have responded to national trauma through consumerism, kitsch sentiment, and tourist practices in ways that reveal a tenacious investment in the idea of America’s innocence. Sturken investigates the consumerism that followed from the September 11th attacks; the contentious, ongoing debates about memorials and celebrity-architect designed buildings at Ground Zero; and two outcomes of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City: the Oklahoma City National Memorial and the execution of Timothy McVeigh.
Sturken contends that a consumer culture of comfort objects such as World Trade Center snow globes, FDNY teddy bears, and Oklahoma City Memorial t-shirts and branded water, as well as reenactments of traumatic events in memorial and architectural designs, enables a national tendency to see U.S. culture as distant from both history and world politics. A kitsch comfort culture contributes to a “tourist” relationship to history: Americans can feel good about visiting and buying souvenirs at sites of national mourning without having to engage with the economic, social, and political causes of the violent events. While arguing for the importance of remembering tragic losses of life, Sturken is urging attention to a dangerous confluence—of memory, tourism, consumerism, paranoia, security, and kitsch—that promulgates fear to sell safety, offers prepackaged emotion at the expense of critical thought, contains alternative politics, and facilitates public acquiescence in the federal government’s repressive measures at home and its aggressive political and military policies abroad.
In Transnational America, Inderpal Grewal examines how the circulation of people, goods, social movements, and rights discourses during the 1990s created transnational subjects shaped by a global American culture. Rather than simply frame the United States as an imperialist nation-state that imposes unilateral political power in the world, Grewal analyzes how the concept of “America” functions as a nationalist discourse beyond the boundaries of the United States by disseminating an ideal of democratic citizenship through consumer practices. She develops her argument by focusing on South Asians in India and the United States.
Grewal combines a postcolonial perspective with social and cultural theory to argue that contemporary notions of gender, race, class, and nationality are linked to earlier histories of colonization. Through an analysis of Mattel’s sales of Barbie dolls in India, she discusses the consumption of American products by middle-class Indian women newly empowered with financial means created by India’s market liberalization. Considering the fate of asylum-seekers, Grewal looks at how a global feminism in which female refugees are figured as human rights victims emerged from a distinctly Western perspective. She reveals in the work of three novelists who emigrated from India to the United States—Bharati Mukherjee, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, and Amitav Ghosh—a concept of Americanness linked to cosmopolitanism. In Transnational America Grewal makes a powerful, nuanced case that the United States must be understood—and studied—as a dynamic entity produced and transformed both within and far beyond its territorial boundaries.
Luxury. The word alone conjures up visions of attractive, desirable lifestyle choices, yet luxury also faces criticism as a moral vice harmful to both the self and society. Engaging ideas from business, marketing, and economics, The Vice of Luxury takes on the challenging task of naming how much is too much in today's consumer-oriented society.
David Cloutier’s critique goes to the heart of a fundamental contradiction. Though overconsumption and materialism make us uneasy, they also seem inevitable in advanced economies. Current studies of economic ethics focus on the structural problems of poverty, of international trade, of workers' rights—but rarely, if ever, do such studies speak directly to the excesses of the wealthy, including the middle classes of advanced economies. Cloutier proposes a new approach to economic ethics that focuses attention on our everyday economic choices. He shows why luxury is a problem, explains how to identify what counts as the vice of luxury today, and develops an ethic of consumption that is grounded in Christian moral convictions.
Just as people schedule regular check-ups with physicians, our planet needs regular check-ups to catch issues as early as possible, before they become more serious and harder to heal. That is the much-needed service provided on a global scale by the Worldwatch Institute in this new book, Vital Signs 2012.
By taking stock of global consumption, Vital Signs 2012 offers the facts that need to guide our stewardship of the Earth's resources-and some of these facts are shocking. The report covers topics from obesity to ecosystem services, from grain production to nuclear power. Taken as a whole, it paints a picture of skyrocketing population, disappearing forests, and increasing consumption peppered with bright spots like growing investment in high-speed trains and other efficient transportation systems.
Vital Signs 2012 is based on Worldwatch's online project of the same name, which provides up-to-date figures on important global concerns, as well as the Institute's own additional research. The book compiles the most important of these into an accessible, informative resource for policymakers and anyone who wants a realistic look at the state of our planet.
The essays in this collection focus primarily on six major business sectors in India: airlines, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, hospitality, food, and telecommunications. An essay on each sector describes the market structure, the current state of the sector, the main players, the key economic forces, and selected business strategies.
The authors describe how the sector might evolve during the next five to ten years, within the broad canvas of the deeper economic and demographic transitions that are taking place in India, and in turn, what this evolution implies for the challenges and opportunities that companies, both domestic and multinational, may face in India. Essays on the emergence of the Indian consumer, the effect of credit cards on India’s consumer culture, and entrepreneurship and India’s poor the emergence of the Indian Consumer round out this profile of India’s market.