consumer culture

  • Museum Celebrates Sweet Smell of... Failure

    The Museum of Failure is a global traveling exhibition that celebrates the signal marketplace flops of capitalism, from the infamous Edsel and New Coke to the obscure, highlighting the vagaries of consumer taste and historical contingency. 

  • Selling Hope

    by Wendy A. Woloson

    After a cancer diagnosis, the author still couldn't escape a world of consumerism that relentlessly commodifies even the worst experiences.

  • I'm Taking an Eco-Holiday From It All (and So Are My Kids)

    by Frida Berrigan

    Is there still value in stepping back from the wasteful cycle of individual consumerism when major corporations and the US military are putting astronomical levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? 

  • The Magnificent History of the Much-Maligned Fruitcake

    by Jeffrey Miller

    A quip attributed to former “Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson has it that “There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.”

  • Lizabeth Cohen: Why Americans Buy So Much Stuff

    As holiday shopping overlaps with historic supply chain disruptions, NPR's Mary Louise Kelly talks with Lizabeth Cohen on the economy's reliance on spending and the culture of consumerism in the U.S.

  • Christmas Dies Hard

    The urban bourgeoisie of the 19th century pushed Christmas away from a drunken celebration of leisure and toward a holiday merging piety and consumerism. 

  • America’s Most Hated Garment

    Atlantic writer Amanda Mull turns to fashion historians Marley Healy and Valerie Steele to place the growing social acceptance of sweatpants in a pattern of clothing standards changing in response to cultural influences and social conditions. 

  • The Long Golden Age of Useless, American Crap

    by Wendy A. Woloson

    Consuming habits encouraged by business and embraced by average Americans make crappy stuff part of the American way of life. While decrying waste, the author argues it's important to recognize that cheap goods allow Americans of modest means to participate in the national lifestyle. 

  • Looking Out For Each Other

    by Leah Valtin-Erwin

    The wrenching transitions that East Germans faced in adapting to western commercial culture after reunification offer lessons for the COVID crisis, and a warning that the burdens of managing social change and stress often fall on retail workers. 

  • Does it Really Matter if Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben get Retired?

    Historian Rita Roberts explains how the iconography of black service workers reinforced white supremacist ideology on consumer packaging, while Jason Chambers and Gregory Smithers discuss the relationship of the business community to changing norms about racism.