Cover

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xi

As I neared completion of this book, I turned to Google to track down a quotation. Up on the screen came a 1937 article by Marion C. Sheridan titled “Rescuing Civilization through Motion Pictures.” Right away I wondered if this was the Dr. Sheridan who taught me English in Hillhouse High School. Sure...

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Introduction: Understanding Consumer Culture in the Post–World War II World

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pp. 1-18

In North America and Western Europe between 1950 and 1972, writers came to envision popular culture and consumer culture in fresh and provocative ways. Across national boundaries and in a series of major essays and books, they increasingly shifted attention from condemnation to critical...

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Chapter 1: For and Against the American Grain

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pp. 19-44

During the 1950s, American intellectuals participated in a spirited debate over the impact of mass culture. Although leading observers were by no means unanimous in their perspectives, a number of themes dominated what they wrote. They focused most of their attention on middle-class Americans who...

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Chapter 2: Lost in Translation

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pp. 58-85

By the middle of the twentieth century new ways of looking at consumer culture emerged, ones that emphasized pleasure, symbolic communication, skepticism about moralistic judgments, and an exploration of the relationship between producers and consumers. Writers began to see popular culture as the...

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Chapter 3: Crossing Borders

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pp. 86-121

If the writings of Jürgen Habermas, Roland Barthes, and Umberto Eco were not available to American readers in the 1950s and beyond, neither were those of Walter Benjamin and C. L. R. James, albeit for more complicated reasons. Benjamin and James spent their lives crossing borders: not only those between...

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Chapter 4: Reluctant Fascination

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pp. 122-162

In the 1950s two North American writers wrestled with how to think about consumer culture—and did so in a manner that broke new ground in important but hesitant ways. In The Lonely Crowd (1950) the American David Riesman presented a probing interpretation of the emergence of new styles of...

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Chapter 5: Literary Ethnography of Working-Class Life

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pp. 163-192

In 1957 Richard Hoggart published The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working- Class Life, which explored the impact of commercialism on the British working class in the years before and after World War II. The appearance of this immensely influential book placed Hoggart on a path to play a key role in the...

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Interlude

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pp. 193-197

David Riesman, Marshall McLuhan, and Richard Hoggart all made major strides toward new understandings of commercial culture. They questioned the certainty with which others, such as Clement Greenberg and Dwight Macdonald, divided high from mass or popular culture, and in the process they...

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Chapter 6: Pop Art from Britain to America

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pp. 199-234

In contrast to Richard Hoggart’s emphasis on working-class culture and the dangers of Americanization stood the arguments of a handful of British critics, members of the Independent Group (IG). In 2007 the novelist David Lodge commented on the work of Hoggart, once his colleague in Birmingham, but he could have been talking about the IG as well. The author...

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Chapter 7: From Workers and Literature to Youth and Popular Culture

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pp. 235-270

The role that members of Britain’s Independent Group played in generating new understandings of consumer culture through their promotion of pop art was matched if not exceeded by the contributions toward a similar goal by leading figures at the Birmingham Center for Contemporary Cultural...

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Chapter 8: Class and Consumption

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pp. 271-305

Changes in the ways writers dealt with social class were key to the emergence of new views of consumer culture. Whatever their own social origins, many critics from the left and right who disdained popular culture articulated an elitist position. They embraced high culture as designated by those...

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Chapter 9: Sexuality and a New Sensibility

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pp. 306-334

In the early to mid-1960s Tom Wolfe and Herbert J. Gans explored the class dimensions of consumer culture in ways that emphasized pleasure, resistance, reciprocity, creativity from below, social class, and symbolic communication. At the same time, Susan Sontag challenged well-worn approaches...

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Chapter 10: Learning from Consumer Culture

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pp. 335-359

If there were two sites that most horrified critics of mass culture in the 1950s, they were Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the symbols for many observers of gaudiness, poor taste, and moral compromise in the postwar world. In 1972 a leading design theorist labeled the Nevada city...

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Conclusion: The World of Pleasure and Symbolic Exchange

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pp. 361-363

With the books by Denise Scott Brown, Robert Venturi, and Reyner Banham, we reach a key turning point in how American and European intellectuals developed imaginative ways of understanding consumer culture. Before then, on the Continent, Roland Barthes, Umberto Eco, and to a lesser extent...

Abbreviations

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pp. 365-366

Notes

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pp. 367-466

Index

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pp. 467-487

Acknowledgments

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pp. 489-491