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Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture (1993)

de William R. Leach

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252379,286 (3.67)1
"Absorbing and incisive, Land of Desire tells the story of a fundamental transformation in the culture and economy of America - the rise of mass-market consumerism and the attendant shift to a society "preoccupied with consumption, with comfort and bodily well-being, with luxury, spending, and acquisition, with more goods this year than last, more next year than this."" "Tracing the rise of American mass-market culture from its beginnings in the 1890s, William Leach reveals how pioneering and visionary merchant princes - John Wanamaker, the Straus brothers, Marshall Field, and A.T. Stewart - constructed the modern department store business and lured millions of buyers with remarkable feats of showmanship. Spectacular displays with dazzling light and color effects and marching bands and bugle corps were part of the pageantry employed to entice Americans into the pleasure of consumption and indulgence. Famous architects and stage designers were enlisted to create the proper atmosphere, and they became part of a complex network of relationships involving banks, hotels, churches, museums, universities, and government that helped these merchants, in effect, create and disseminate a new mentality predicated on acquisition and consumption as a means of achieving happiness." "A fascinating tale of American business, one that is particularly resonant amid the undertow of today's staggering trade deficits and retail bankruptcies, Land of Desire raises some disturbing questions about how the work ethic of an earlier America was superseded by a new consumer culture that came to dominate, reshape, and ultimately define America."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved… (més)

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For someone who gets Mall Fatigue by the time I park and traverse Macys, I felt the task of completing this to be somewhat arduous. However, for those interested in the rise of US commercialism on the basis not only of the dramatic evolutions within retailing but also in consideration of certain intellectual outpourings and institutional correlations within the decades in question, then you should find this to be a great book. Leach covers the transformation of a Mother-stitching-one’s-britches nation into one where department stores sought to coerce consumers into purchasing completely new wardrobes every year. It’s certainly an important history that sheds much light on of the origin of the “shop ‘til you drop” paradigm that defined Generation Me, Generation X, Generation Y, the Millennials, or whatever other dubiously designated groups that have been attacked for lacking the frugality of the previously accused generations. ( )
1 vota mjgrogan | Jun 14, 2010 |
A really good history of the rise of commercial culture and of advertising. ( )
  lateinnings | May 21, 2010 |
I read this a few years back, but I recall it being fascinating, and it made a deep impression on me. Leach's book is a scholarly and very readable account of a particular period in American history. It traces the early years of modern consumer culture. I guarantee it will change your perception of going to the mall; to this day, whenever I walk into a grand department store, my mind whisper's Leach's words: "colour, glass, and light...." ( )
  Cynara | Jun 11, 2009 |
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"Absorbing and incisive, Land of Desire tells the story of a fundamental transformation in the culture and economy of America - the rise of mass-market consumerism and the attendant shift to a society "preoccupied with consumption, with comfort and bodily well-being, with luxury, spending, and acquisition, with more goods this year than last, more next year than this."" "Tracing the rise of American mass-market culture from its beginnings in the 1890s, William Leach reveals how pioneering and visionary merchant princes - John Wanamaker, the Straus brothers, Marshall Field, and A.T. Stewart - constructed the modern department store business and lured millions of buyers with remarkable feats of showmanship. Spectacular displays with dazzling light and color effects and marching bands and bugle corps were part of the pageantry employed to entice Americans into the pleasure of consumption and indulgence. Famous architects and stage designers were enlisted to create the proper atmosphere, and they became part of a complex network of relationships involving banks, hotels, churches, museums, universities, and government that helped these merchants, in effect, create and disseminate a new mentality predicated on acquisition and consumption as a means of achieving happiness." "A fascinating tale of American business, one that is particularly resonant amid the undertow of today's staggering trade deficits and retail bankruptcies, Land of Desire raises some disturbing questions about how the work ethic of an earlier America was superseded by a new consumer culture that came to dominate, reshape, and ultimately define America."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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