In this signal work of history, Bancroft Prize winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist Lizabeth Cohen shows how the pursuit of prosperity after World War II fueled our pervasive consumer mentality and transformed American life.
Trumpeted as a means to promote the general welfare, mass consumption quickly outgrew its economic objectives and became synonymous with patriotism, social equality, and the American Dream. Material goods came to embody the promise of America, and the power of consumers to purchase everything from vacuum cleaners to convertibles gave rise to the power of citizens to purchase political influence and effect social change. Yet despite undeniable successes and unprecedented affluence, mass consumption also fostered economic inequality and the fracturing of society along gender, class, and racial lines. In charting the complex legacy of our “Consumers’ Republic” Lizabeth Cohen has written a bold, encompassing, and profoundly influential book.
About the Author
Lizabeth Cohen received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. She is the Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies in the history department and the Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. In 2007--2008 she was the Harmsworth Professor of American History at Oxford University. Previously, she taught at New York University and Carnegie Mellon University. The author of many articles and essays, Dr. Cohen was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her first book, MAKING A NEW DEAL: INDUSTRIAL WORKERS IN CHICAGO, 1919--1939, for which she later won the Bancroft Prize and the Philip Taft Labor History Award. She authored A CONSUMERS' REPUBLIC: THE POLITICS OF MASS CONSUMPTION IN POSTWAR AMERICA (2003), and is currently writing SAVING AMERICA'S CITIES: ED LOGUE AND THE STRUGGLE TO RENEW URBAN AMERICA IN THE SUBURBAN AGE, on urban renewal in American cities after World War II. At Harvard, she has taught courses in 20th century American history, with particular attention to the intersection of social and cultural life and politics. She now oversees the Radcliffe Institute, a major center for scholarly research, creative arts, and public programs.
“Provocative . . . original. . . . Rich in detail and perception.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Substantial, illuminating, and sophisticated. . . . A creative, provocative and often compelling account. . . . Sweeping and fascinating. . . . A genuine contribution to postwar American history.” —Chicago Tribune
“Ingenious. . . . Exceptional. . . . Cohen thinks big. . . . Her history is impeccable; her almost superhuman investigations into obscure sources and archives bring many rewards.” —The New Republic
“A sobering book—and an essential one. . . . Broadly ambitious. . . . The first historical account to examine closely the social world of postwar consumerism and the politics that were so tightly enmeshed with it.” —The American Prospect