Pursuing Happiness: American Consumers in the Twentieth Century

Stanley Lebergott, Author Princeton University Press $77.5 (188p) ISBN 978-0-691-04322-7
In this quirky, entertaining and brief survey, Wesleyan University economist Lebergott targets high-minded critics of American consumerism with a detailed analysis of how spending has changed over the century. Debunking Thorstein Veblen's conclusions in the 1920s and '30s, he suggests that the rich of the past--and also today--account for only a small portion of national consumption. Time, not income, has been the greatest constraint on consumers, he observes, describing how packaged food, mass-produced clothing and household appliances have changed daily life. Criticizing Juliet Schor's The Overworked American (1991), he argues that Americans actually lead much easier lives than simple-living primitive people. Tracing the consumption trends of this century, Lebergott offers intriguing details: the increase in spending for food is attributable mainly to restaurant meals, as well as the higher consumption of meat, bakery products and sweets. Some of his observations are debatable, e.g., his suggestion that the American hospital system is superior to those of Great Britain and Canada. (June)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993
Release date: 08/01/1993
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 206 pages - 978-0-691-02599-5
Paperback - 204 pages - 978-0-691-60758-0
Hardcover - 204 pages - 978-0-691-63614-6
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