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Carried away or loaded down, love it or hate it, we take shopping for granted as one of the pleasures, or burdens, of our lives. Yet we are curiously unaware of how we became the consumers that we are.
In this witty and revelatory book, Rachel Bowlby looks at some of the turning points of twentieth-century consumer history: when department stores gave way to supermarkets; when packaging made everyday things into objects of desire; when self-service created a close, new relationship between shoppers and merchandise. Carried Away looks at arguments about chocolate boxes and bars of soap, at modernist shop windows and supermarket shelves, at Stepford Wives and Rupert Bears -- at the many extraordinary ways that modern shopping and shoppers have been imagined and invented.
Bowlby focuses in particular on the development of supermarkets, which started in the United States as accidental discount ventures in the 1930s before rapidly settling into the standard stores of suburban malls. But self-service did not have to be massive in scale. Between the two world wars, writers on retail speculated about a new hands-on intimacy between shoppers and goods in the small local store, with no clerk interfering. At the same time, packaging, which after World War II came to symbolize crudely exploitative mass marketing, was a field for modernist experiment, promising a simple, sophisticated aesthetic for all.
Carried Away delves into these and other forgotten histories of twentieth-century stores and their shoppers; after you have read it, theaisles of the local market will never seem quite the same.
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