Advertising at War challenges the notion that advertising disappeared as a political issue in the United States in 1938 with the passage of the Wheeler-Lea Amendment to the Federal Trade Commission Act, the result of more than a decade of campaigning to regulate the advertising industry. Inger L. Stole suggests that the war experience, even more than the legislative battles of the 1930s, defined the role of advertising in U.S. postwar political economy and the nation's cultural firmament. She argues that Washington and Madison Avenue were soon working in tandem with the creation of the Advertising Council in 1942, a joint effort established by the Office of War Information, the Association of National Advertisers, and the American Association of Advertising Agencies.
Using archival sources, newspapers accounts, and trade publications, Stole demonstrates that the war elevated and magnified the seeming contradictions of advertising and allowed critics of these practices one final opportunity to corral and regulate the institution of advertising. Exploring how New Dealers and consumer advocates such as the Consumers Union battled the advertising industry, Advertising at War traces the debate over two basic policy questions: whether advertising should continue to be a tax-deductible business expense during the war, and whether the government should require effective standards and labeling for consumer products, which would render most advertising irrelevant. Ultimately the postwar climate of political intolerance and reverence for free enterprise quashed critical investigations into the advertising industry. While advertising could be criticized or lampooned, the institution itself became inviolable.
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.
A definitive history of consumer activism, Buying Power traces the lineage of this political tradition back to our nation’s founding, revealing that Americans used purchasing power to support causes and punish enemies long before the word boycott even entered our lexicon. Taking the Boston Tea Party as his starting point, Lawrence Glickman argues that the rejection of British imports by revolutionary patriots inaugurated a continuous series of consumer boycotts, campaigns for safe and ethical consumption, and efforts to make goods more broadly accessible. He explores abolitionist-led efforts to eschew slave-made goods, African American consumer campaigns against Jim Crow, a 1930s refusal of silk from fascist Japan, and emerging contemporary movements like slow food. Uncovering previously unknown episodes and analyzing famous events from a fresh perspective, Glickman illuminates moments when consumer activism intersected with political and civil rights movements. He also sheds new light on activists’ relationship with the consumer movement, which gave rise to lobbies like the National Consumers League and Consumers Union as well as ill-fated legislation to create a federal Consumer Protection Agency.
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.
The mid-twentieth-century marketing world influenced nearly every aspect of American culture—music, literature, politics, economics, consumerism, race relations, gender, and more. In Engineered to Sell, Jan L. Logemann traces the transnational careers of consumer engineers in advertising, market research, and commercial design who transformed capitalism from the 1930s through the 1960s. He argues that the history of marketing consumer goods is not a story of American exceptionalism. Instead, the careers of immigrants point to the limits of the “Americanization” paradigm. Logemann explains the rise of a dynamic world of goods and examines how and why consumer engineering was shaped by transatlantic exchanges. From Austrian psychologists and little-known social scientists to the illustrious Bauhaus artists, the emigrés at the center of this story illustrate the vibrant cultural and commercial connections between metropolitan centers: Vienna and New York; Paris and Chicago; Berlin and San Francisco. By focusing on the transnational lives of emigré consumer researchers, marketers, and designers, Engineered to Sell details the processes of cultural translation and adaptation that mark both the midcentury transformation of American marketing and the subsequent European shift to “American” consumer capitalism.
Billions of fresh-cut flowers are flown into the United States every year, allowing Americans to choose from a broad array of blooms regardless of the season. Favored Flowers is a lively investigation of the worldwide production and distribution of fresh-cut flowers and their consumption in the New York metropolitan area. In an ethnography filled with roses, orchids, and gerberas, flower auctions, new hybrids, and new logistical systems, Catherine Ziegler unravels the economic and cultural strands of the global flower market. She provides an historical overview of the development of the cut flower industry in New York from the late nineteenth century to 1970, and on to its ultimate transformation from a domestic to a global industry. As she points out, cut flowers serve no utilitarian purpose; rather, they signal consumers’ social and cultural decisions about expressing love, mourning, status, and identity. Ziegler shows how consumer behavior and choices have changed over time and how they are shaped by the media, by the types of available flowers, and by flower retailing.
Ziegler interviewed more than 250 people as she followed flowers along the full length of the commodity chain, from cuttings in Europe and Latin America to vases in and around New York. She examines the daily experiences of flower growers in the Netherlands and Ecuador, two leading exporters of flowers to the United States. Primary focus, though, is on others in the commodity chain: exporters, importers, wholesalers, and retailers. She follows their activities as they respond to changing competition, supply, and consumer behavior in a market characterized by risk, volatility, and imperfect knowledge. By tracing changes in the wholesale and retail systems, she shows the recent development of two complementary commodity chains in New York and the United States generally. One leads to a high-end luxury market served by specialty florists and designers, and the other to a lower-priced mass market served by chain groceries, corner delis, and retail superstores.
"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."
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.
Middle Class Union argues that the period following World War I was a pivotal moment in the development of middle-class consumer politics in the 20th century. At this time, middle-class Americans politically mobilized to define for society what was fair in the growing consumer marketplace. They projected themselves as guardians of the producerist values of hard work, honesty, and thrift, and called for greater adherence to them among the working and elite classes. In this era and in later periods, they flexed their muscles as consumers, and claimed to defend the values of the nation.
Combining social history with interdisciplinary approaches to the study of consumption and symbolic space, Middle Class Union illustrates how acts of consumption, representations of the middle class in literary, journalistic, and artistic discourses, and ground-level organizing combined to enable white-collar activists to establish themselves as both the middle class and the backbone of the nation. This book contributes to labor history by examining the nexus of class and consumption to show how many white-collar workers drew on their consumer identity to express an anti-labor politics, later facilitating the struggles of unions throughout the post–World War I years. It also contributes to political history by emphasizing how these middle-class activists laid important groundwork for both 1920s business conservatism and New Deal liberalism. They exerted their political influence well before the post–World War II period, when a self-interested and powerful middle-class consumer identity is more widely acknowledged to have taken hold.
Monitoring Sweatshops offers the first comprehensive assessment of efforts to address and improve conditions in garment factories. Jill Esbenshade describes the government's efforts to persuade retailers and clothing companies to participate in private monitoring programs. She shows the different approaches to monitoring that firms have taken, and the variety of private monitors employed, from large accounting companies to local non-profits. Esbenshade also shows how the efforts of the anti-sweatshop movement have forced companies to employ monitors overseas as well. When monitoring is understood as the result of the withdrawal of governments from enforcing labor standards as well as the weakening of labor unions, it becomes clear that the United States is experiencing a shift from a social contract between workers, businesses, and government to one that Jill Esbenshade calls the social responsibility contract. She illustrates this by presenting the recent history of monitoring, with considerable attention to the most thorough of the Department of Labor's programs, the one in Los Angeles. Esbenshade also explains the maze of alternative approaches being employed worldwide to decide the questions of what should be monitored and by whom.
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.
In Scripted Affects, Branded Selves, Gabriella Lukács analyzes the development of a new primetime serial called “trendy drama” as the Japanese television industry’s ingenious response to market fragmentation. Much like the HBO hit Sex and the City, trendy dramas feature well-heeled young sophisticates enjoying consumer-oriented lifestyles while managing their unruly love lives. Integrating a political-economic analysis of television production with reception research, Lukács suggests that the trendy drama marked a shift in the Japanese television industry from offering story-driven entertainment to producing lifestyle-oriented programming. She interprets the new televisual preoccupation with consumer trends not as a sign of the medium’s downfall, but as a savvy strategy to appeal to viewers who increasingly demand entertainment that feels more personal than mass-produced fare. After all, what the producers of trendy dramas realized in the late 1980s was that taste and lifestyle were sources of identification that could be manipulated to satisfy mass and niche demands more easily than could conventional marketing criteria such as generation or gender. Lukács argues that by capitalizing on the semantic fluidity of the notion of lifestyle, commercial television networks were capable of uniting viewers into new affective alliances that, in turn, helped them bury anxieties over changing class relations in the wake of the prolonged economic recession.
Consumers feel powerless in the face of big industry, and the dominant view of economic regulators agrees with them. Trumbull argues that this represents a misreading of the historical record and the core logic of interest representation. Weak interests, he reveals, quite often emerge the victors in policy battles, by forging unlikely alliances.
Americans have been shocked by media reports of the dismal working conditions in factories that make clothing for U.S. companies. But while well intentioned, many of these reports about child labor and sweatshop practices rely on stereotypes of how Third World factories operate, ignoring the complex economic dynamics driving the global apparel industry.
To dispel these misunderstandings, Jane L. Collins visited two very different apparel firms and their factories in the United States and Mexico. Moving from corporate headquarters to factory floors, her study traces the diverse ties that link First and Third World workers and managers, producers and consumers. Collins examines how the transnational economics of the apparel industry allow firms to relocate or subcontract their work anywhere in the world, making it much harder for garment workers in the United States or any other country to demand fair pay and humane working conditions.
Putting a human face on globalization, Threads shows not only how international trade affects local communities but also how workers can organize in this new environment to more effectively demand better treatment from their distant corporate employers.