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View Diary: A Brief History of Consumerism (34 comments)

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    Unusual Suspect

    I just completed a Ph.D. in American history, and wrote on the origins of consumer culture. In fact, I studied with the guy who coined the term "consumer culture" -- as well as with several other of the best historians working on the topic today. So, with that said, let me suggest that what you are outlining is only one interpretation of the changes you are talking about among many, and although a respectable persepctive not necessarily the most interesting or even the most useful one. Leach is good at what he does, but that line of analysis leads to some serious problems in terms of how to think about the meaning of mass-consumption.

    So, if you don't already know their work, and are serious about thinking about this topic, I suggest you take a look at:

    Jackson Lears: No Place of Grace (on anti-modernism, which comes close to Leach), and Fables of Abundance (on advertising, which tries to find a new ground for thinking about consumption)

    James Livingston: Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Revolution (very difficult, but worth the effort) and Pragmatism, Feminism, Democracy (ditto) -- both of which make a serious argument for why we need to embrace corporate capitalism and consumer culture rather than imagine ourselves as rejecting it, and which explain why we wouldn't have feminism with out modern capitalism, written from a left-perspective.

    Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements and Hope in a Jar, both of which make points similar to Livingston, but without the difficult theory and from a social history perspective

    Cheers.

    MD

    P.S. you can get a sample of Jim Livingston's work at our website -- he takes a pretty serious swipe at Howard Zinn in his latest post.

    Come get lost in our world: www.politicsandletters.com

    by MonkeyDog102 on Fri May 05, 2006 at 07:13:43 AM PDT

    •  also (0+ / 0-)
      Zygmunt Bauman, Work, consumerism and the new poor, (Open University Press, 1998).

      bauman is a sociologist. here, he develops the theory of the "failed consumer" (aka 'buy=less poor'), from Benheim "work ethic" to the present.

      u'spect: best bet to locate 2nd-hand paperback at amazon.

      Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

      by MarketTrustee on Fri May 05, 2006 at 10:28:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

      I've read some of Lears, and I will definitely take a look at the others.

      Reality has a well-known liberal bias. - Stephen Colbert

      by Unusual Suspect on Fri May 05, 2006 at 12:40:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No problem. (0+ / 0-)

        Don't get discouraged if you can't follow Livingston -- it is really quite difficult. You might want to start with the reviews of PPECR first. Let me know if you want any other suggestions; I just finished a book on consumer credit which was pretty good, though basically a minor work (Financing the American Dream, or something like that). Take care, Joe

        Come get lost in our world: www.politicsandletters.com

        by MonkeyDog102 on Fri May 05, 2006 at 02:56:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Read Livingston as you suggested and won't again (0+ / 0-)

      His contemptible rant is my first exposure to that website. I find Livingston so unintelligible, so dishonest, I will not return. Thanks for pointing out a blowhard not worth reading.

    •  Torturing history and argument (0+ / 0-)

      In Livingston, we have a rightwing apologist parading as a leftist. Lovely. Just what we don't need. This is not at all
      different from the contradictions President Bush embraces such as peace is war.

      James Livingston: Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Revolution (very difficult, but worth the effort) and Pragmatism, Feminism, Democracy (ditto) -- both of which make a serious argument for why we need to embrace corporate capitalism and consumer culture OH PLEASE, We passed on that, thank you.  rather than imagine ourselves as rejecting it, and which explain why we wouldn't have feminism with out modern capitalism, written from a PHONY left-perspective.

      I am sorry that Livingston has you so tied up in knots that you would parrot ridiculous claims like the above.

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