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July 06 , 2008

The Consumer Society Reader


The Consumer Society Reader features a range of key works on the nature and evolution of consumer society. Included here is much-discussed work by leading critics such as Jean Baudrillard, Susan Bordo, Dick Hebdige, bell hooks, and Janice Radway. Also included is a full range of classics, such as Frankfurt School writers Adorno and Horkheimer on the Culture Industry; Thorstein Veblen's oft-cited writings on "conspicuous consumption"; Betty Friedan on the housewife's central role in consumer society; John Kenneth Galbraith's influential analysis of the "affluent society"; and Pierre Bourdieu on the notion of "taste."
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"Consumer society – the 'air we breathe,' as George Orwell has described it – disappears during economic downtruns and political crises. It becomes visible again when prosperity seems secure, cultural transformation is too rapid, or enviornmental disasters occur. Such is the time in which we now find ourselves. As the roads clog with gas-guzzling SUVs and McMansions proliferate in the suburbs, the nation is once again asking fundamental questions about lifestyle. Has 'luxury fever,' to use Robert Frank's phrase, gotten out of hand? Are we really comfortable with the 'Brand Is Me' mentality? Have we gone too far in pursuit of the almighty dollar, to the detriment of our families, communities, and natural enviornment? Even politicians, ordinarily impermeable to questions about consumerism, are voicing doubts... [and] polls suggest majorities of Americans feel the country has become too materialistic, too focused on getting and spending, and increasingly removed from long-standing non-materialist values." -From the introduction by Douglas B. Holt and Juliet B. Schor
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