Why does shopping have such a powerful influence on our lives? As shoppers will attest, it provides a terrific balm for the soul. But shopping offers us an even greater bargain than that: as the public face of consumer society, it keeps the modern economy afloat, linking the family looking for jeans at Wal-Mart in California to factories in China and Bangladesh. As we push our wire carts around the supermarket or stroll through the mall, shopping provides a normal means of taking part in social life.
Accessible, smart, and expansive, Point of Purchase shows the incredible impact shopping has had on American life, stretching from the mid-19th century to today's shopping trends from the internet to Zagat guides. Unlike many social critics, Zukin does not condemn Americans for being so consumer-minded. Rather, she explores why shopping has become so central to our lives: the rise of consumer culture, the never-ending quest for better value, and shopping's ability to help us improve our social status and attain new social identities.
Point of Purchase presents shopping as the pursuit of the American dream, where low prices define our concept of democracy, brand names represent our search for a better life, and designer boutiques embody the promise of an ever-improving self.
Using her own keen shopper's eyes to comb through a variety of sources, Zukin (sociology, CUNY Graduate Ctr.) assembles a compelling study of a national passion. This book is not meant to explore the entire history of shopping but to examine how shopping has become a focus of American culture. The adroit juxtaposition of source types lends Zukin's arguments credence. A New Yorker, she uses that city as a major focus, and, in addition to employing scholarly research and personal interviews, she draws on department stores' histories and works by influential executives such as Marvin Traub. Zukin is careful to explain that she is not seeking to chastise Americans for being greedy shopaholics. Instead, she wants to understand what she considers one of the main ways in which people create value in their lives and express themselves. Unlike Thomas Hine's I Want That!, a well-organized and comprehensive popular history, this is a web of interconnected chapter studies with a scholarly bent and plentiful endnotes. It will appeal to students of contemporary American culture, business, and fashion. Accordingly, most academic libraries will find this a worthwhile purchase, and larger public libraries should also consider.-Audrey Snowden, Brewer, ME Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.