567 pages, b/w photos
In this signal work of history, Bancroft Prize winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist Lizabeth Cohen shows how the pursuit of prosperity after World War II fueled our pervasive consumer mentality and transformed American life.
Trumpeted as a means to promote the general welfare, mass consumption quickly outgrew its economic objectives and became synonymous with patriotism, social equality, and the American Dream. Material goods came to embody the promise of America, and the power of consumers to purchase everything from vacuum cleaners to convertibles gave rise to the power of citizens to purchase political influence and effect social change. Yet despite undeniable successes and unprecedented affluence, mass consumption also fostered economic inequality and the fracturing of society along gender, class, and racial lines. In charting the complex legacy of our "Consumers' Republic" Lizabeth Cohen has written a bold, encompassing, and profoundly influential book.
"Provocative [...] original [...] Rich in detail and perception."
– The New York Times Book Review
"Substantial, illuminating, and sophisticated [...] A creative, provocative and often compelling account [...] Sweeping and fascinating [...] A genuine contribution to postwar American history."
– Chicago Tribune
"Ingenious [...] Exceptional [...] Cohen thinks big [...] Her history is impeccable; her almost superhuman investigations into obscure sources and archives bring many rewards."
– The New Republic
"A sobering book – and an essential one [...] Broadly ambitious [...] The first historical account to examine closely the social world of postwar consumerism and the politics that were so tightly enmeshed with it."
– The American Prospect
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Lizabeth Cohen is Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies in the Department of History at Harvard University. She is the author of Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919 – 1939, which won the Bancroft Prize and the Philip Taft Labor History Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written many articles and essays and is coauthor (with David Kennedy) of The American Pageant. She lives in Belmont, Massachusetts, with her husband and two daughters.