Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture

William Leach, Author Pantheon Books $30 (510p) ISBN 978-0-394-54350-5
From 1880 to 1930, life in the U.S. changed from a society dominated by the work ethic to one ruled by consumer capitalism. In this outstanding cultural history, Leach ( True Love and Perfect Union ) provides a carefully researched analysis of the interaction of power structures that cooperated to produce this transformation. Utilization of new advertising techniques and display artistry by retail merchants such as Philadelphian John Wanamaker created a commercial aesthetic that meshed with a new positivism in mainstream religion. These two trends, together with the emergence of commercial brokers both in and out of government, facilitated a commitment to consumerism as a cultural value that endures today. Leach argues that L. Frank Baum's childhood classic, The Wizard of Oz, and the Oz sequels, were imbued with positive thinking and the idea that possessing luxurious objects could bring happiness. Photos not seen by PW. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993
Release date: 08/01/1993
Genre: Nonfiction
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