Blog Entry 4: "Setting the Course"

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Pick a quotation from "Setting the Course."  A minimum of two sentences.  Type it into the comment space below, and then say why you picked the quotation.

Did it tell you something you didn't know or hadn't thought about?
Was it unclear to you?
Do you find what the author says debatable?
Do you think it particularly important to the argument of the piece?

This is a rather long piece with lots of detail, some of it interesting, and ideas tucked in all over the place.  Pay particular attention to mention of the social organizational functions of consumer society.

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71 Comments

“New consumer goods brought more than physical comforts, pleasure, and mobility. They introduced new styles of life, especially fresh ways of accommodating the societal changes that gripped turn of the century Americans……Through their packaging, display, and advertising, consumer goods came to embody distinct and eventually dominant alternative to political and even religious visions of American life.”
This quote from the chapter Setting the Course by Gary Cross, made me realize that many items that we use on a daily basis are things we got sucked in to buying because it was considered “normal” to have because of advertisements. Cars and electronic devices are now quickly evolving and people have to spend money to keep up with the newest and latest items. About ten years ago, people only had cell phones if they could afford it. After it got cheaper, advertisements made people want to have one and it became normal to have cell phones. Now everyone has a cell phone with internet and games and cell phones are added to the way of life.

"American consumer culture was built on much more than new products. At least as important were innovations in selling-new approaches to retailing, buying on credit, packaging, and advertising" (reader, pg 13).
I picked this quotation because it explains the best how consumer society works. It's not only the new products what catches our attention. In fact, I think the other factors, such as the advertisements, and the payment facilities, are what really urges us to buy a product. The advertisement makes society think that the product should be a must in their lives, then it bugs you to think that everyone wants to have that product, so you buy it to reach happiness and stability. Moreover, the different payment options makes us feel closer to the product, making it something reachable. We don't think of buying extremely expensive stuff because we know they are out of our limits, even if its the newest car model. However, once it gets to within our reach, it bugs us to know we can get something we want and we don't have it. The fact that its new doesn't really make us want to buy something; it's the advertisement and the feeling of the product being affordable what creates consumer society. But then of course, the new stuff is what always takes all advertisement.

"This change intensified the frustrating effort to join those above and gain distance from those below. The expression, "Keeping up with the Joneses" (from a 1910 comic strip) meant less emulation of the rich than not falling behind one's own crowd. This, however was hardly reassuring to the faint of the heart. In an economy that made luxuries like cars available to a majority (but not all), keeping up was not seeking status but simply trying to be among the majority"(pg. 23).

I chose this quote because first of all, I was fascinated to find out where that expression originated from and secondly because I found the second half interesting. Now, in modern times, new inventions and technologies are always being produced and sold so many people are constantly wanting the absolute best and newest product available. They can now get a variety of things ranging from the newest cell phone, to computer, to television. Although, production was not as fast back in the days therefore people simply wanted to keep up with the top product which in this case was the Ford automobile. It simply caught my attention because I feel like now people consume more for status rather than back then when they are said to be "simply trying to be among the majority."

"The surge in free time, personal income, and new products made possible a new consumer society. In turn, new spending opportunities helped Americans adapt to profound social change."

I feel this quote is important because i feel like it's an important argument for the article and for the author. Without the occurence of these things not much change could have been accomplished. Without the time, the money or the items of increased necessity social change might not have occured.

"In an economy that made luxuries like cars available to a majority (but not all), keeping up was not seeking status but simply trying to be among the majority"(10).
I think the importance of this quote is how consumerism became so important to people. Everyone was working, and buying more and more. Department stores would imitate an expensive item and sell it cheap, so low-income families wouldn't stay begin. People were "trying to be among the majority", meaning if the population was buying a certain object, then they better have it too. The term "keeping up" shifts from dividing classes by their social status to a new seperation of who owned what. This meant everyone wanted to "keep up" and not be left behind by constantly buying.

"Beginning about 1950, advertising innovators like Ernest Calkins advocated that modern psychology be used to link products with the desires and insecurities of consumers, thus creating a longing for particular items" (16)
I found this quote to be important because I felt it led to major consumerism. Since 1950 this technique of using psychology to get people to "consume" has been used and has been effective ever since then. Today we still see commercials about Scope and Listerine for bad breath, perfumes for hygiene, cars to get that pretty (skinny)girl, those jeans that make your butt look bigger, and the list goes on. All this kind of advertisement makes the consumer insecure about themselves which eventually leads them to actually buying these items (even though they know that those jeans wont make their butt look bigger). Overall the reading was pretty interesting for the most part. The statistics really helped put things into perspective of the way consumerism evolved through the 20th century.

"Beginning about 1950, advertising innovators like Ernest Calkins advocated that modern psychology be used to link products with the desires and insecurities of consumers, thus creating a longing for particular items" (16)
I found this quote to be important because I felt it led to major consumerism. Since 1950 this technique of using psychology to get people to "consume" has been used and has been effective ever since then. Today we still see commercials about Scope and Listerine for bad breath, perfumes for hygiene, cars to get that pretty (skinny)girl, those jeans that make your butt look bigger, and the list goes on. All this kind of advertisement makes the consumer insecure about themselves which eventually leads them to actually buying these items (even though they know that those jeans wont make their butt look bigger). Overall the reading was pretty interesting for the most part. The statistics really helped put things into perspective of the way consumerism evolved through the 20th century.

“New consumer goods brought more than physical comforts, pleasure, and mobility. They introduced new styles of life...”
It’s true that consumer goods bring about new life styles to our everyday lives. We depend on these consumer goods to keep us content, up to date, and involved in today’s society. If we don’t upgrade we encounter disapproval of our consumer goods. Sometimes as young teens we get made run of if we don’t wear the current styles or if we don’t own the high tech gadgets. This ridicule can cause insecurity, and thus make us unhappy. We tend to feel ashamed of what we own and feel locked out of the new life style.

"Symbolic goods also helped ordinary shy people avoid self-disclosure. They aided immigrants, the young, the newly urbanized, or the simply insecure to avoid the humiliation of being nobodies and the anxiety of facing a world of strangers."
I didn't know that this feeling of anxiety when you don't belong happened in the past too. I thought it was something new. The idea that not having new products you can hide behind to look like everyone else is used often by companies. They say a certain person looks like this and if you don't look like this you're a stranger, and you don't belong. Everyone is expected to fit this mold, and if they don't they are an outsider. Companies took advantage of this and sold their products to people based on these ideas.

"Increasingly more fragmented, mobile, and unorganized, Americans joined 'consumption communities' that did not require an active citizenry but were comprised, according to historian Daniel Boorstin, of 'people who have a feeling of shared well being, shared risks, common interests and common concerns that come from consuming the same kinds of objects.' Americans defined their status and dismissed boredom and anxiety by joining the crowd" (9).

In a society where individuality is often promoted and emphasized, it is ironic that we often feel the need to be like everyone else. If we are consuming to be unique within the standards of the mass, are we really distinguishing ourselves? This desire to constantly consume gives us the illusion of being accepted and connected to the larger crowd. However, by becoming a part of the mass, what we are ultimately trying to find are people who we can share our needs and aspirations with. Instead, we try to express our desires and needs through the consumption of products as a means of connecting with the other.

"In an increasingly mobile society, customers were more likely to know "Sunny Jim" or "Betty Crocker" than the clerk behind the counter. These were symbols of reliability and security in a society where people could no longer count on personal trust in the retailer."
I chose this quote because I found it funny how people back in the days trusted more the brand of food then a person behind the counter. This reminds me of how people would rather choose the brand name food rather than an unknown brand. Even if they have the same flavor and cost, people would trust more the name brand such as "Betty Crocker" then another brand.

“Mass consumption did not lead to an egalitarian community of affluent and secure citizens. Rather, competition for status goods divided and often frustrated spenders.”

This quote made me question why we as human beings are always competing to achieve high social standings. There is no reason we should waste money on unnecessary objects to display for others. If we do, we are basically just buying things for others and not ourselves. When will we realize that the opinions of others should not have even the slightest effect on our lives?

"In the generation after 1900, consumption had became a substitute for conversation in a society where rituals of communication were already weak and growing weaker."
Its so amazing how it has become harder to have a simple conversation rather than going shopping. I wonder what the true factors are for the cause of this. It is just a interesting when you think about society today and how much it has changed in recent years.

"American consumer culture was built on much more than new products. At least as important were innovations in selling-new approaches to retailing, buying on credit, packaging, and advertising." Pg.13
I chose this quote because it shows how consumerism works here in America. Businesses began to create more opportunities and desires amongst and for society so that their businesses would strive. Allowing a customer to buy something based on their credit even though they cannot afford to pay all at once allows more products or services to be purchased. This is good for the businesses and the customers because the businesses get paid and the customers fulfill their needs or desires. The increase in advertisements also created a huge jump in sales because it created an image that the product or service was of importance and consumers would act accordingly to the advertisements.

"Beginning about 1950, advertising innovators like Ernest Calkins advocated that modern psychology be used to link products with the desires and insecurities of consumers, thus creating a longing for particular items" (16)

We learned in class that advertisers play on the insecurities of women more than the insecurities of men. This scheme has been going on since 1950 with in other words means that it has worked and they have continued using this method to sell their goods. How far has our society come along is so many aspects but we still allow ourselves to be duped into buying things we don't need?

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Nick Tingle published on March 24, 2011 11:52 AM.

Entry 3: "The Emergence of Consumerism" was the previous entry in this blog.

Blog Entry 5: "Why the Self is Empty" is the next entry in this blog.

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