Spree: A Cultural History of Shopping

Article excerpt

by Pamela Klaffke

ARSENAL PULP PRESS, 2003

Review by Kris Rothstein

Shopping as a leisure activity began in the nineteenth century and changed our behaviour, our desires and our landscape. Spree explores the evolution of shopping spaces, products and implements, as well as the history of trade and currency.

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Much of the book deals with how we buy, whether it's at a store, flea market, or auction, or through a catalogue, TV channel, or website. It's a book of fun facts about huge malls, famous shoplifters, shopping board games and the history of thrifting.

Pamela Klaffke highlights problems like shopping bulimia and compulsive buying, but these are exceptions in her world, where shopping is just good clean fun. What about consumers who prefer to use extra money for charity, or those who are embarrassed to drop cash on luxury items? Just because we can spend doesn't mean we will, or that we all dream of unlimited funds for shopping. While Klaffke notes that shopping has become an end in itself, there is no exploration in Spree of the complex emotions involved in shopping, or of the place of the advertising industry in creating gratuitous needs. …