1st Edition

The Rise of Consumer Capitalism in America, 1880 - 1930

By Cesare Silla Copyright 2018
    256 Pages 34 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    254 Pages 34 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book offers a genealogical account of the rise of consumer capitalism, tracing its origins in America between 1880 and 1930 and explaining how it emerged to become the dominant form of social organization of our time. Asking how it was that we came to be consumers who live in societies that revolve around an ever-spinning circle of production and consumption, not only of goods, but also of events, experiences, emotions and relations, The Rise of Consumer Capitalism in America presents an extensive analysis of primary sources to demonstrate the conditions and forces from which consumer capitalism emerged and became victorious.

    Employing a Weberian approach that brings liminality to the fore as a master concept to make sense of historical change, the author links an in-depth empirical investigation to supple sociological theorizing to show how the encirclement of all aspects of life by the logic of consumer capitalism was a time-bound historical creation rather than a necessary one. A fascinating study of the appearance and triumph of the "ideology" of our age, this book will appeal to scholars of social and anthropological theory, historical sociology, cultural history and American studies.

    Lists of Tables and Figures



    Introduction: Revisiting the Genealogy of Consumer Capitalism Through Liminality

    Part I: On the Threshold of a New Era: Making Way for Modernity

    1. A New Economic Life

    2. Souls in Transition

    Part II: Making the Consumer City: The Theatricalization Of Urban Life

    3. The Chicago World’s Fair Of 1893 And the Urban Ideal

    4. The City as Spectacle

    5. The Presentation of Self in Urban Daily Life

    Part III: The Genesis of The Consumer: ‘Image-Making’ And the Production of Desire

    6. The Personality of Business

    7. The New Basis of Civilization

    8. Subjects of Desire

    Part IV: Marketing Professionalism: The Engine of Consumer Capitalism and Its Lasting Effect

    9. Marketing Plan and Consumer Research

    10. Relationship Marketing and The Experience Economy

    11. Planned Obsolescence and The Consumption Engineer

    Concluding Remarks




    Cesare Silla is Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology at Catholic University of Milan.

    "The focus on the historicity of the consumer subjectivity and its specificity as a type (and relatedly that of consumer capitalism) is what sets Silla’s study apart from much of the existing work on the history of consumption. [...] I would recommend the book to all interested in the history of consumption and marketing, whether they are beginners or advanced scholars. In particular, the book would be of value to scholars with interest in the concept of liminality. Silla demonstrates the value of this notion well in illuminating the aspects often obfuscated in the historical works due to the tendency to focus on periodisation and/or specific periods, rather than the in-between phases in their accounts. Also, Silla does a particularly fine job in explaining how to do a genealogical study. And finally, the volume would serve as a valuable reference for those interested in a more sociologically informed understanding of the current marketing practices and consumption phenomena." - Olga Kravets, Rassegna Italiana di Sociologia