|Memo - Oct. 11 -
National Markets, Local Cultures
With the exam on Thursday, we have only one regular class this week. In it, I want to turn our attention from a top-down perspective on how consumer society worked (i.e., advertisers looking down at the "suckers" from up on high) to a bottom-up perspective. What happens when we consider how consumers themselves, especially working-class consumers, experienced the new regime of rationalized marketing and consumption. The short story by O. Henry that we read several weeks ago introduced a few issues relevant here. The one reading for this week--a well-known article from 1989 by the historian Lizabeth Cohen--will introduce several more. As its title suggests, the article concerns the experience working-class Chicagoans in the consumer culture of the 1920s, especially in terms of chain stores, consumer credit, and the kinds of commodities that had the most meaning for them.
As you read, and afterwards, please think about: