1st Edition

Point of Purchase
How Shopping Changed American Culture

ISBN 9780415950435
Published March 1, 2005 by Routledge
336 Pages

USD $44.95

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Book Description

This accessible, smart, and expansive book on shopping's impact on American life is in part historical, stretching back to the mid-19th century, yet also has a contemporary focus, with material on recent trends in shopping from the internet to Zagat's guides.

Drawing inspiration from both Pierre Bourdieu's work and Walter Benjamin's seminal essay on the shopping arcades of 19th-century Paris, Zukin explores the forces that have made shopping 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.

Table of Contents

Prologue: What Shopping Is
1. A Brief History of Shopping
2. Julia Learns to Shop
3. From Woolworth's to Wal-Mart
4. "The Perfect Pair of Leather Pants"
5. B. Altman, Ralph Lauren, and the Death of the Leisure Class
6. Artemio Goes to Tiffany's
7. Consumer Guides and the Invention of Lifestyle
8. How Brooks Brothers Came to Look Like Banana Republic
9. The Zen of Internet Shopping
10. Zagats' 'R' Us
Epilogue: What Shopping Should Be

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Sharon Zukin teaches sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center and at Brooklyn College, where she holds an endowed chair. She is the author of numerous books and articles, and is a major figure in both urban studies and cultural sociology. She lives in New York City.


"Over the last two decades, Sharon Zukin has expertly guided us through urban spaces and what she inventively called 'landscapes of power.' Now, in Point of Purchase, she steers us through today's 'landscapes of consumption'--the department stores, discount chains, consumer guides, and internet websites where Americans are daily redefining themselves. With Zukin as our intrepid navigator, the familiar waters of commerce suddenly become the cutting edge of contemporary American culture." -- Lizabeth Cohen, author of A Consumers' Republic
"It's easy to condemn shopping, but it's more difficult--and more important--to understand it. If you've noticed that shopping is becoming ever more inescapable and ever less satisfying, Sharon Zukin's intimate yet authoritative exploration of the retail experience will tell you why." -- Thomas Hine, author of I Want That! How We All Became Shoppers
"Sharon Zukin avoids clichés, never ducks an argument, and digs out unfamiliar facts. The result is a brilliant and unsettling essay." -- Richard Sennett, London School of Economics
"Zukin provides a historical and analytical context to help readers understand how shopping has affected public and private life from the mid-19th century to today. Well researched and thorough, the book unearths how and where we shop and, more importantly, why consumer culture has so much power over us. . Zukin's lively prose and vivid anecdotes may win her a larger audience." -- Publishers Weekly
"Using her own keen shopper's eyes to comb through a variety of sources, Zukin 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. 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." -- Library Journal
"Point of Purchase...is nevertheless a wonderfully provovative starting point for a conversation on the politics of shopping." -- Kathleen G. Donohue, The Journal of American History