Vance Packard & American Social Criticism

Synopsis

Vance Packard's number-one bestsellers - Hidden Persuaders (1957), Status Seekers (1959), and Waste Makers (1960) - taught the generation of Americans that came of age in the late 1950s and early 1960s about the dangers posed by advertising, social climbing, and planned obsolescence. Like Betty Friedan and William H. Whyte, Jr., Packard (1914- ) is a journalist who played an influential role as the largely complacent 1950s gave way to the tumultuous 1960s. He is also one of the first social critics to foster and to benefit from the newly energized social and political consciousness of this period. Raised on a Pennsylvania farm, shaped by the New Deal at home and the rise of fascism abroad, and trained as a journalist, Packard turned to writing nonfiction books when he faced unemployment in 1956. In addition to his three best-known early works, his later books explore many of the forces shaping America, including invasion of privacy, changing sexual mores, the uprooting of families, and the rise of the ultra,rich in the Reagan era. The titles of Packard's most famous works have become a part of our everyday vocabulary. Based in part on interviews with Packard, Daniel Horowitz's intellectual biography focuses on the period during which Packard wrote his major works of social criticism. Horowitz also traces the influence of the writer's early family life and education on his thought. Packard's life illuminates the dilemmas of a freelance social critic without inherited wealth or academic affiliation: the tension between making a living and sustaining independence; the problems posed by a dramatically fluctuating royalty income; and the impact of changing relationships with audience, publishers, intellectuals, academics, and new media such as television and the New Journalism. Packard's career also expands our understanding of how one era helped create the next, underscoring how the adversarial 1960s drew on

Additional information

Contributors:
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Chapel Hill, NC
Publication year:
  • 1994