|Memo - Nov. 1-3 -
Mid-century Critics of Consumer Society
The first reading this week is a chapter from An All-Consuming Century: Why Commercialism Won in Modern America (2000), by Gary Cross, a historian at Penn State University. It surveys a range of critical perspectives on consumer society and explores how abundance generated anxiety and concern along with desire and material fantasies, and shows how these concerns became particularly acute in the years leading up to and after World War Two.
I would also like you to begin reading Tom Frank's The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip. Consumerism (1997). For this week, please focus especially on ch. 1 and 3. For next week, please focus on ch. 4 and 6-8. Frank is a historian and contemporary cultural critic whose work has paid particular to the language and logic business has used to absorb critiques of consumer capitalism and reconfigure them as pro-business ideology. There are many personal and corporate names in the book, but try not to get bogged down in them. Keep you eye on the big points and the most important individuals and firms.
(By the way, I've uploaded a few country songs to the website, to supplement the reading and discussion we had on country music. You'll find there a representative song by the Carter Family, two songs by Jimmie Rodgers, and a Hank Williams song.)
As you read for this week, please consider: