Selling Culture: Magazines, Markets, and the Class at the Turn of the Century

Richard M. Ohmann, Author
Richard M. Ohmann, Author Verso $22 (411p) ISBN 978-1-85984-974-3
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
Paperback - 411 pages - 978-1-85984-110-5
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Drawing, in part, from what the author, a former editor of College English, calls ""the broad marxist tradition,"" this is a highly ideological social and economic history of the rise of low-cost, high-circulation monthly magazines in America at the end of the 19th century. The era marked what Ohmann sees as the beginning of a nationwide mass culture rooted in advertising that continues to this day, a culture based on using information and entertainment as commodities. Thanks to developments in technology, Ohmann notes, the U.S. moved from being an industrial country to a marketing one; and along the way, a professional managerial class established itself. Among the magazines given special attention (including a study of the fiction published) are Munsey's, McClure's and Ladies' Home Journal. Topics touched on include the birth of department stores, mail order and chain stores; the rise of the suburbs; and the triumph of advertising agencies, which, according to Ohmann, articulated the goals and formulated the strategies of ""the big bourgeoisie."" Less politically-minded readers might be tempted to skip the ideological sections and mine this highly researched study for the rich--indeed lavish--amount of raw information it contains on the growth of popular culture. Illustrations. (June)
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