Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Four American Dreams of Consumerism

Ownby (1999) identifies four American Dreams that the new consumer culture addressed.

The first was the "Dream of Abundance" offering a cornucopia of material goods to all Americans, making them proud to be the richest society on earth.

The second was the "Dream of a Democracy of Goods" whereby everyone had access to the same products regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or class, thereby challenging the aristocratic norms of the rest of the world whereby only the rich or well-connected are granted access to luxury.

The "Dream of Freedom of Choice" with its ever-expanding variety of good allowed people to fashion their own particular lifestyle.

Finally, the "Dream of Novelty", in which ever-changing fashions, new models, and unexpected new products broadened the consumer experience in terms of purchasing skills and awareness of the market, and challenged the conservatism of traditional society and culture, and even politics.



1925 Ford Model T touring
Ownby acknowledges that the dreams of the new consumer culture radiated out from the major cities,but notes that they quickly penetrated the most rural and most isolated areas, such as rural Mississippi.

With the arrival of the model T after 1910, consumers in rural America were no longer locked into local general stores with their limited merchandise and high prices in comparison to shops in towns and cities. Ownby demonstrates that poor black Mississippians shared in the new consumer culture, both inside Mississippi, and it motivated the more ambitious to move to Memphis or Chicago.
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