We live in an age of addiction, from compulsive gaming and shopping to binge eating and opioid abuse. What can we do to resist temptations that insidiously and deliberately rewire our brains? Nothing, David Courtwright says, unless we understand the global enterprises whose “limbic capitalism” creates and caters to our bad habits.
Named one of “the year's best gardening books” by The Spectator (UK, Nov. 2014)
The 1890s saw a revolution in advertising. Cheap paper, faster printing, rural mail delivery, railroad shipping, and chromolithography combined to pave the way for the first modern, mass-produced catalogs. The most prominent of these, reaching American households by the thousands, were seed and nursery catalogs with beautiful pictures of middle-class homes surrounded by sprawling lawns, exotic plants, and the latest garden accessories—in other words, the quintessential English-style garden.
America’s Romance with the English Garden is the story of tastemakers and homemakers, of savvy businessmen and a growing American middle class eager to buy their products. It’s also the story of the beginnings of the modern garden industry, which seduced the masses with its images and fixed the English garden in the mind of the American consumer. Seed and nursery catalogs delivered aspirational images to front doorsteps from California to Maine, and the English garden became the look of America.
Brain Culture investigates the American obsession with the health of the brain. The brain has become more than a bodily organ, acquiring a near-mystical status. The message that this organ is the key to everything is everywhere--in self-help books that tell us to work on our brains to achieve happiness and enlightenment, in drug advertisements that promise a few tweaks to our brain chemistry will cure us of our discontents, and in politicians' speeches that tell us that our brains are national resources essential to our economic prosperity.
Davi Johnson Thornton looks at these familiar messages, tracing the ways that brain science and colorful brain images produced by novel scientific technologies are taken up and distributed in popular media. She tracks the impact of the message that, "you are your brain" across multiple contemporary contexts, analyzing its influence on child development, family life, education, and public policy. Brain Culture shows that our fixation on the brain is not simply a reaction to scientific progress, but a cultural phenomenon deeply tied to social and political values of individualism and limitless achievement.
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.
In this revealing social history, Daniel Thomas Cook explores the roots of children’s consumer culture—and the commodification of childhood itself—by looking at the rise, growth, and segmentation of the children’s clothing industry. Cook describes how in the early twentieth century merchants, manufacturers, and advertisers of children’s clothing began to aim commercial messages at the child rather than the mother. Cook situates this fundamental shift in perspective within the broader transformation of the child into a legitimate, individualized, self-contained consumer.
The Commodification of Childhood begins with the publication of the children’s wear industry’s first trade journal, The Infants’ Department, in 1917 and extends into the early 1960s, by which time the changes Cook chronicles were largely complete. Analyzing trade journals and other documentary sources, Cook shows how the industry created a market by developing and promulgating new understandings of the “nature,” needs, and motivations of the child consumer. He discusses various ways that discursive constructions of the consuming child were made material: in the creation of separate children’s clothing departments, in their segmentation and layout by age and gender gradations (such as infant, toddler, boys, girls, tweens, and teens), in merchants’ treatment of children as individuals on the retail floor, and in displays designed to appeal directly to children. Ultimately, The Commodification of Childhood provides a compelling argument that any consideration of “the child” must necessarily take into account how childhood came to be understood through, and structured by, a market idiom.
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.
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.
The Dialectics of Shopping
Daniel Miller University of Chicago Press, 2001 Library of Congress TX335.M535 2001 | Dewey Decimal 306.34
Shopping is generally considered to be a pleasurable activity. But in reality it can often be complicated and frustrating. Daniel Miller explores the many contradictions faced by shoppers on a typical street in London, and in the process offers a sophisticated examination of the way we shop, and what it reveals about our relationships to our families and communities, as well as to the environment and the economy as a whole.
Miller's companions are mostly women who confront these contradictions as they shop. They placate their children with items that combine nutrition with taste or usefulness with style. They decide between shopping at the local store or at the impersonal, but less expensive, mall. They tell of their sympathy for environmental concerns but somehow avoid much ethical shopping. They are faced with a selection of shops whose shifts and mergers often reveal extraordinary stories of their own. Filled with entertaining—and thoroughly familiar—stories of shoppers and shops, this book will interest scholars across a broad range of disciplines.
Decision-making can be difficult and often results in necessary trade-offs, e.g., safety versus price in the purchasing of an automobile. This work provides a model of trade-off difficulty, focusing on its antecedents and consequences. The authors advance a new framework for the integration of the emotional and cognitive aspects of decision-making and argue that consumers perceive and appraise their choices in light of their goals and potential coping strategies.
Richard TUCK Harvard University Press, 2008 Library of Congress HB846.8.T78 2008 | Dewey Decimal 302.13
A proposition of contemporary economics and political science is that it would be an exercise of reason, not a failure of it, not to contribute to a collective project if the contribution is negligible, but to benefit from it nonetheless.Tuck makes careful distinctions between the prisone's dilemma problem, threshold phenomena such as voting, and free riding. He analyzes the notion of negligibility, and shows some of the logical difficulties in the idea - and how the ancient paradox of the sorites illustrates the difficulties.
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.
Although encouraging people to eat more nutritiously can promote better health, most efforts by companies, health professionals, and even parents are disappointingly ineffective. Brian Wansink’s Marketing Nutrition focuses on why people eat the foods they do, and what can be done to improve their nutrition. Wansink argues that the true challenge in marketing nutrition lies in leveraging new tools of consumer psychology (which he specifically demonstrates) and by applying lessons from other products’ failures and successes. The key problem with marketing nutrition remains, after all, marketing.
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.
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.
Why do citizens of states with strict surveillance care so little about their digital privacy? Why do Brazilians eschew geo-tagging on social media? What drives young Indians to friend “foreign” strangers on Facebook and give “missed calls” to people? Payal Arora answers these questions and many more about the internet’s next billion users.
When reporters asked about the Bush administration’s timing in making their case for the Iraq war, then Chief of Staff Andrew Card responded that “from an marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” While surprising only in its candor, this statement signified the extent to which consumer culture has pervaded every aspect of life. For those troubled by the long reach of the marketplace, resistance can seem futile. However, a new generation of progressive activists has begun to combat the media supremacy of multinational corporations by using the very tools and techniques employed by their adversaries.
In OurSpace, Christine Harold examines the deployment and limitations of “culture jamming” by activists. These techniques defy repressive corporate culture through parodies, hoaxes, and pranks. Among the examples of sabotage she analyzes are the magazine Adbusters’ spoofs of familiar ads and the Yes Men’s impersonations of company spokespersons.
While these strategies are appealing, Harold argues that they are severely limited in their ability to challenge capitalism. Indeed, many of these tactics have already been appropriated by corporate marketers to create an aura of authenticity and to sell even more products. For Harold, it is a different type of opposition that offers a genuine alternative to corporate consumerism. Exploring the revolutionary Creative Commons movement, copyleft, and open source technology, she advocates a more inclusive approach to intellectual property that invites innovation and wider participation in the creative process.
From switching the digital voice boxes of Barbie dolls and G.I. Joe action figures to inserting the silhouetted image of Abu Ghraib’s iconic hooded and wired victim into Apple’s iPod ads, high-profile instances of anticorporate activism over the past decade have challenged, but not toppled, corporate media domination. OurSpace makes the case for a provocative new approach by co-opting the logic of capitalism itself.
Christine Harold is assistant professor of speech communication at the University of Georgia.
If you're a woman and you shop for a new car, will you really get the best deal? If you're a man, will you fare better? If you're a black man waiting to receive an organ transplant, will you have to wait longer than a white man?
In Pervasive Prejudice? Ian Ayres confronts these questions and more. In a series of important studies he finds overwhelming evidence that in a variety of markets—retail car sales, bail bonding, kidney transplantation, and FCC licensing—blacks and females are consistently at a disadvantage. For example, when Ayres sent out agents of different races and genders posing as potential buyers to more than 200 car dealerships in Chicago, he found that dealers regularly charged blacks and women more than they charged white men. Other tests revealed that it is commonly more difficult for blacks than whites to receive a kidney transplant because of federal regulations. Moreover, Ayres found that minority male defendants are frequently required to post higher bail bonds than their Caucasian counterparts.
Traditional economic theory predicts that free markets should drive out discrimination, but Ayres's startling findings challenge that position. Along with empirical research, Ayres offers game—theoretic and other economic methodologies to show how prejudice can enter the bargaining process even when participants are supposedly acting as rational economic agents. He also responds to critics of his previously published studies included here. These studies suggest that race and gender discrimination is neither a thing of the past nor merely limited to the handful of markets that have been the traditional focus of civil rights laws.
How did Americans come to quantify their society’s well-being in units of money? In our GDP-run world, prices are the measure of not only goods and commodities but our environment, communities, nation, even self-worth. Eli Cook shows how, and why, we moderns lost sight of earlier social and moral metrics that did not put a price on everyday life.
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.
Every year, about 25,000 new products are introduced in the United States. Most of these products fail—at considerable expense to the companies that produce them. Such failures are typically thought to result from consumers’ resistance to innovation, but marketers have tended to focus instead on consumers who show little resistance, despite these “early adopters” comprising only 20 percent of the consumer population.
Shaul Oreg and Jacob Goldenberg bring the insights of marketing and organizational behavior to bear on the attitudes and behaviors of the remaining 80 percent who resist innovation. The authors identify two competing definitions of resistance: In marketing, resistance denotes a reluctance to adopt a worthy new product, or one that offers a clear benefit and carries little or no risk. In the field of organizational behavior, employees are defined as resistant if they are unwilling to implement changes regardless of the reasons behind their reluctance. Seeking to clarify the act of rejecting a new product from the reasons—rational or not—consumers may have for doing so, Oreg and Goldenberg propose a more coherent definition of resistance less encumbered by subjective, context-specific factors and personality traits. The application of this tighter definition makes it possible to disentangle resistance from its sources and ultimately offers a richer understanding of consumers’ underlying motivations. This important research is made clear through the use of many real-life examples.
Popular culture assumes that women are born to shop and that cities invite their trade. But downtowns were not always welcoming to women. Emily Remus turns to Chicago at the turn of the last century to chronicle an unheralded revolution in women’s rights that took place not at the ballot box but in the streets and stores of the business district.
Gary S. Becker Harvard University Press, 2000 Library of Congress HM548.B43 2000 | Dewey Decimal 306.3
Economists assume that people make choices based on their preferences and their budget constraints. The preferences and values of others play no role in the standard economic model. This feature has been sharply criticized by other social scientists, who believe that the choices people make are also conditioned by social and cultural forces. Economists, meanwhile, are not satisfied with standard sociological and anthropological concepts and explanations because they are not embedded in a testable, analytic framework.
In this book, Gary Becker and Kevin Murphy provide such a framework by including the social environment along with standard goods and services in their utility functions. These extended utility functions provide a way of analyzing how changes in the social environment affect people's choices and behaviors. More important, they also provide a way of analyzing how the social environment itself is determined by the interactions of individuals.
Using this approach, the authors are able to explain many puzzling phenomena, including patterns of drug use, how love affects marriage patterns, neighborhood segregation, the prices of fine art and other collectibles, the social side of trademarks, the rise and fall of fads and fashions, and the distribution of income and status.
Table of Contents:
Part I The Effect of Social Capital on Market Behavior 1. The Importance of Social Interactions 2. Social Forces, Preferences, and Complementarity 3. Are Choices "Rational" When Social Capital Is Important?
Part II The Formation of Social Capital 4. Sorting by Marriage 5. Segregation and Integration in Neighborhoods 6. The Social Market for the Great Masters and Other Collectibles with William Landes 7. Social Markets and the Escalation of Quality: The World of Veblen Revisited with Edward Glaeser 8. Status and Inequality with IvÃƒÂ¡n Werning
Part III Fads, Fashions, and Norms 9. Fads and Fashion 10. The Formation of Norms and Values
References Author Index Subject Index
Reviews of this book: [Becker and Murphy] are pioneers in the quest to extend the boundaries of rational choice theory in economics...They depict human beings not as isolated individuals but as members of society, shaped by social and cultural forces...This book marks another step in bringing economic theory closer to social reality. --David Throsby, Times Literary Supplement
Reviews of this book: This fascinating short book seeks to advance a 'social economics' field that would tackle such interpersonal issues head-on. It does so by addressing a diverse set of issues that includes social capital, habits and social interactions, sorting and marriage markets, segregation and integration of neighborhoods, escalation in product quality, status and inequality, and the modeling of fashions, norms, and values. --Stephen R. G. Jones, Journal of Economic Literature
Society and Economy
Mark Granovetter Harvard University Press, 2017 Library of Congress HM548.G73 2016 | Dewey Decimal 306
A work of exceptional ambition by the founder of modern economic sociology, this first full account of Mark Granovetter’s ideas stresses that the economy is not a sphere separate from other human activities but is deeply embedded in social relations and subject to the same emotions, ideas, and constraints as religion, science, politics, or law.