The Making of the Consumer: Knowledge, Power and Identity in the Modern World

The Making of the Consumer: Knowledge, Power and Identity in the Modern World

The Making of the Consumer: Knowledge, Power and Identity in the Modern World

The Making of the Consumer: Knowledge, Power and Identity in the Modern World

Synopsis

Ranging from the United States to contemporary Papua New Guinea, and from the European Union to China, this book discusses the evolution of the consumer in economics, law, and anthropology; the political contestation of water and tea, as well as shopping in modern Europe, and the current refashioning of consumer identities in East Germany, in multinational stores in China, and in public debates about the effect of consumerism on childhood and citizenship in Europe and North America. Bringing together international experts from history, law, economics, anthropology, and media studies, this book offers a historically informed perspective on the rise of the consumer to its current prominence.

Excerpt

'And what do you mean to be?'
The kind old Bishop said
As he took the boy on his ample knee…

'I want to be a Consumer,'
The bright-haired lad replied
As he gazed up into the Bishop's face
In innocence open-eyed.
'I've never had aims of a selfish sort,
For that, as I know is wrong,
I want to be a Consumer, Sir,
And help the word along.

'I want to be a Consumer
And work both night and day,
For that is the thing that's needed most,
I've heard Economists say.
I won't just be a Producer,
Like Bobby and James and John;
I want to be a Consumer, Sir,
And help the nation on'. (Punch 1934)

Missing Person

The consumer as an engine of wealth and representative of the public interest is an established figure in contemporary politics and discourse. Indeed, the consumer may have become all too familiar, exhorted to keep the American economy moving in the aftermath of 11 September 2001, embraced by communist China in the 1990s and charged with reforming public services in Britain under New Labour. Such is the almost instinctive recourse to this persona in politics, media and academia that the consumer is close to becoming a quasi-natural being. Interestingly, the opening rhyme . . .

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