Getting and spending : European and American consumer societies in the twentieth century


Getting and spending : European and American consumer societies in the twentieth century

edited by Susan Strasser, Charles McGovern, and Matthias Judt

(Publications of the German Historical Institute)

German Historical Institute , Cambridge University Press, 1998

  • : pbk

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Includes bibliographical references and index



The developing history of consumption is not so much a separate field, as a prism through which many aspects of social and political life may be viewed. The essays in this collection represent a variety of approaches in Europe and America; yet their commonalities suggest recent directions in the scholarship, raising such themes as consumption and democracy, the development of a global economy, the role of the state, the centrality of consumption to Cold War politics, the importance of the Second World War as a historical divide, the language of consumption, the contexts of locality, race, ethnicity, gender, and class, and the environmental consequences of twentieth-century consumer society. Implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, they explore the role of the historian as social, political, and moral critic. The essays discuss products, corporate strategies, government policies, and ideas about consumption. Unlike other studies of twentieth-century consumption, this book provides international comparisons.


  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Part I. Politics, Markets, and the State: 1. The consumers' White Label campaign of the National Consumers' League, 1898-1918
  • 2. Democracy and political identity in the consumer society
  • 3. Changing consumption Regimes in Europe, 1930-1970
  • 4. Consumer research as public relations: General Motors in the 1930s
  • 5. The New Deal State and the making of citizen consumers
  • 6. Consumer spending as state Project: yesterday's solutions and today's problems
  • 7. The Emigre as celebrant of American consumer culture: George Katona and Ernest Dichter
  • 8. Dissolution of the 'dictatorship over needs'? consumer behavior and economic reform in East Germany in the 1960s
  • Part II. Everyday Life: 9. World War I and the creation of desire for cars in Germany
  • 10. Gender, generation, and consumption in the United States: working-class families in the interwar period
  • 11. Comparing apples and oranges: housewives and the politics of consumption in interwar Germany
  • 12. 'The convenience is out of this world': the garbage disposer and American consumer culture
  • 13. Consumer culture in the GDR, or how the struggle for antimodernity was lost on the battleground of consumer culture
  • 14. Changes in consumption as social practice in West Germany during the 1950s
  • 15. Reshaping shopping environments: the competition between the city of Boston and its suburbs
  • 16. Toys, socialization, and the commodification of play
  • 17. The 'syndrome of the 1950s' in Switzerland: cheap energy, mass consumption, and the environment
  • 18. Reflecting on Ethnic Imagery in the Landscape of commerce, 1945-1975
  • Part III. History and Theory: 19. Modern subjectivity and consumer culture
  • 20. Consumption and consumer society: a contribution to the history of ideas
  • 21. Reconsidering abundance: a plea for ambiguity.

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