American Mass-Market Magazines

By Alan Nourie; Barbara Nourie | Go to book overview

or reject an approach that assumes the importance of consuming and questions only which brand to buy. 21 Still others have suggested that rather than introduce a rational element into consumer choice, Consumer Reports merely makes consumers feel more rational about and satisfied with their purchases. 22) While each of these criticisms retains an isolated validity, each limits itself by taking the role of Consumer Reports as seriously as the magazine takes itself. The Veblen-intoned ideals of utility and thrift seem as far from the ascendancy as they were sixty years ago; many observers might regard the intervening years as the triumph of conspicuous consumption rather than its defeat. The often- remarked power of American society to absorb its dissenters without wholly accepting or rejecting their position is well illustrated by the status of Consumer Reports, which has become a fixture despite the triumph of conspicuous consumption. Consumer Reports, like Veblen's voice, has been a tiny dam against the surge of leisurely consumption. Unable to remake the world along the restrained utilitarian lines Veblen valued, Consumer Reports has nonetheless carved out a valued place for itself within the free arena of American consumer affairs.


Notes
1.
Robert Lynd, "The Problem of the Consumer," Annals of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, May 1936, pp. 1-7.
2.
Daniel Boorstin, The Americans ( New York: Random House, 1973), pp. 193-99.
3.
Otis Pease, The Responsibilities of American Advertising: Private Control and Public Influence ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 1958), chapters 1-4.
4.
Oscar E. Anderson, The Health of a Nation ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), pp. 172-96.
5.
W. Whitney, "The Place of Standardization in Modern Life," Annals of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, May 1928, pp. 32-39.
6.
Norman I. Silber, Test and Protest: The Influence of Consumers Union ( New York: Holmes and Meier, 1983), pp. 22-23.
7.
Ibid.
9.
Ibid.
10.
Elin Schoen, "Consumer Reports' Knows What's Best for Us All," Esquire, February 1974, p. 111.
11.
Silber, p. 29.
13.
Ibid., p. 130.
14.
G. Kinkead, "Soulful Trouble at Consumers Union," Fortune, 22 February 1982, p. 124.
15.
Schoen, p. 146.
16.
Kinkead, p. 124.
17.
Ibid.
18.
For a detailed study of the smoking, automobile, and milk testing, the reader should refer to Silber Test and Protest, which includes a general history of Consumers Union.

-70-

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