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Sold American: Consumption and Citizenship, 1890-1945 (edition 2006)

by Charles F. McGovern

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Member:marfita
Title:Sold American: Consumption and Citizenship, 1890-1945
Authors:Charles F. McGovern
Info:The University of North Carolina Press (2006), Paperback, 528 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:consumers, consumerism, advertising, propaganda, US social history, old friends

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Sold American: Consumption and Citizenship, 1890-1945 by Charles F. McGovern

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At long last I have finished this book, Sold American: Consumption and Citizenship, 1890 - 1945 by Charles F. McGovern. I need to preface my remarks on it by admitting that I do not recall ever discussing anything concerning this topic with Charlie in the time I spent living in the half-a-house he and a friend of mine rented. Therefore, this is not a "why the hell didn't he mention me in his acknowledgements when there were six pages of them and he mentioned everyone else who walked by" essay ... regardless of how it sounds.

I'm not through with the footnotes yet, but I did slog through the text. And I mean "slog" in the nicest way. This is the meaty prose of the dissertation, lightened hither and yon by Charlie's inimitable wryness. Example: subheading in chapter 7: "Slaughter on Madison Avenue" - great balls o' fire, he even worked in a musical reference! Further on, he remarks that "in the early 1930s the Buy-ological Urge [as expressed by Better Homes and Gardens] seemed less frequent than cicadas." This topic is actually one of my pet bugbears. I am a fan of Consumer Reports, which I refer to before all major purchases (using the library copy - tee hee!) I was crushed when the kids' version, Zillions, went on-line where I couldn't read it. There was a time that I wandered around ranting that our economy was based solely on the exchange of cash for crap, yards of crap, endless steaming juggernauts of crap. And what was worse, there seemed to be no way away from it. I truly hoped that this book would tell me where this happened (which might lead to a way away from it). Not wishing to provide any "spoilers" to my posse of reader, the book does not do this. You can start reading again, Bob. Anyway, it's never one defining moment. This is a process beginning in the 1890s and on-going to our day and beyond. By "beyond," I mean more than in time, but also geographically. Consumerism seems to be the Ice Nine that will doom our civilization.

If Charlie's book does anything, it confirms my fears (not really immediate fears, but deep ones) about business and advertising. So now, thanks to Charlie, I want to read Veblen and bust the stranglehold business has on our society.

The only thing worse than the crushing realization that we cannot get off this tiger of relentless consumption of crap, is the knowledge that we're infecting the rest of the world. We rape the natural resources of other continents, we allow their people to be enslaved to make our crap that we just throw away, and, on top of it, they want a piece of the crap-cycle themselves. But despite the major depression this brings on (well, on me, anyway), imagine the fun of researching this by poring over old magazines! Look at the cover of the book! And there's more inside the book - some absolutely appalling ads supporting business interests, not just promoting products. During the Second World War, production of consumer goods was curtailed for the war effort, but the producers didn't want people to forget their products or for the dreaded consumerists to get the upper hand, so they promoted themselves. American GIs were out there being killed for Kelvinator. They were dying so that the folks at home could some day enjoy the benefits of modern appliances again. Never mind that Hitler guy and his crazy ideas about non-Aryans. Advertising didn't care about anyone who wasn't white and middle-class. The freedom we fight for now is the freedom to choose Maytag over GE!
  marfita | Jul 17, 2018 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0807856762, Paperback)

At the turn of the twentieth century, an emerging consumer culture in the United States promoted constant spending to meet material needs and develop social identity and self-cultivation. In Sold American, Charles F. McGovern examines the key players active in shaping this cultural evolution: advertisers and consumer advocates. McGovern argues that even though these two professional groups invented radically different models for proper spending, both groups propagated mass consumption as a specifically American social practice and an important element of nationality and citizenship.

Advertisers, McGovern shows, used nationalist ideals, icons, and political language to define consumption as the foundation of the pursuit of happiness. Consumer advocates, on the other hand, viewed the market with a republican-inspired skepticism and fought commercial incursions on consumer independence. The result, says McGovern, was a redefinition of the citizen as consumer. The articulation of an "American Way of Life" in the Depression and World War II ratified consumer abundance as the basis of a distinct American culture and history.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:38 -0400)

At the turn of the twentieth century, an emerging consumer culture in the US promoted constant spending to meet material needs and develop social identity and self-cultivation. In 'Sold American', Charles McGovern examines the key players active in shaping this cultural evolution: advertisers and consumer advocates. He argues that even though these two professional groups invented radically different models for proper spending, both groups propagated mass consumption as a specifically American social practice and an important element of nationality and citizenship.… (more)

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