Selling Culture: Magazines, Markets, and Class at the Turn of the Century
At the turn of the nineteenth century, American capitalism was in crisis, producing too many goods for too few buyers, that crisis was ultimately resolved in a novel, historically decisive manner by creating whole new categories of consumer goods and by appealing to new groups of people who might purchase them. What we now recognise as consumer society originated in that period, and it was mass culture, the first 'culture industry', that helped bring it into being. In a magisterial study of the process, Richard Ohmann surveys the new practices of advertising, mass distribution of goods, and, most important, the birth of the inexpensive mass-audience magazine to analyse the creation of the American professional-managerial class. Drawing upon work in economic, cultural, and social history, he integrates the seemingly disparate phenomena of modern middle-class life in a coherent tale of how the class was formed and came to occupy the foreground in the malign ideological formation, 'the American Dream.' Elegantly written, lucidly argued, and brimming with arresting facts and incidents, Selling Culture offers the definitive account of the relation between culture and economy in the transformation of the United States into a mass-consumption, mass-mediated society.