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American Plastic: A Cultural History Paperback – October 1, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press (October 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813522358
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813522357
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,120,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Meikle, professor of American studies and art history at the University of Texas, presents a splendid history of plastic. The book is authoritative, thorough, interdisciplinary and intriguing. As aptly characterized in the preface, "the narrative itself takes on a certain plasticity, touching in turn on the histories of technology and invention, of industry and marketing, of industrial design and consumer culture." The author adroitly balances the different perspectives. He traces the course of plastics from 19th-century celluloid and the first wholly synthetic bakelite, in 1907, through the proliferation of compounds (vinyls, acrylics, polystyrene, nylon, etc.) and recent ecological concerns. Amply considered in context are the cultural influences of plastics, which sprang from the original motives of "substitution, imitation, and innovation" to condition our present perceptions, language, lifestyles and expectations. The general attitude of the public toward this industry is ambivalent; the historical details prove instructive. Interested readers of whatever predisposition will likely enjoy this comprehensive and thoughtful treatise. Illustrations.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

While many people would like to think that this is the Information Age, we are in fact living in the Age of Plastics. Since 1979 the production of plastic has far outpaced that of steel. It is doubtful that any of us could envision our world without plastics. From the Barbie dolls we grew up with to the cars we drive, for better or worse, plastics have shaped the world we live in. This scholarly and comprehensive work, by an American studies professor and author of Twentieth Century Limited: Industrial Design in America, 1925-1938 (Temple Univ. Pr., 1981), is nontechnical and emphasizes the social and cultural impact of plastics. Meikle's book is so enjoyable that this reviewer began underlining and writing margin notes while reading. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in understanding contemporary society.
James Olson, Northeastern Illinois Univ. Lib., Chicago
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Edward J Gorcenski on November 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Meikle produces a book, a text, really, that is almost imperative to every student and instructor of Sociology or Cultural History. The book serves as more than a technological manifest of an object's history, as many tend to do, and exposes a critical part of our modern lifestyles.
Few can ignore that plastics exist througout our modern lives more than ever before. In fact, plastics are some pervasive that few care to remember them any more. Such an important material, a material so born in human creation, deserves due notice. American Plastic is just that.
The reader stands to benefit from Meikle's background in art history. The development of plastic in the Twentieth Century restricts plastic's popularity not for its utility but rather for its art. The art of plastic became manifest to me when I started working in plastics a few years ago. Before I left, I was able to witness first-hand the development of plastic parts for the myriad "toys" we see today. My division was merely responsible for coloring the material, yet this step was crucial more than any other merely because American's have an aversion to the ugly.
We shun the idea of plasticity, a word filled with images of large infinte primary colors and decades long past, but we forget that it is the same plastic we use in our cell phones, computers, soda bottles and cars that we cannot live without. Meikle's work exemplifies this artistic aspect as a factor as important as the technology behind the material.
Nonetheless, he does not fail to provide the reader with a rich history of the technological, political and sociological development of plastic. Meikle does not stray for his purpose, and perhaps this is partly why this book is so enjoyable to read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
Who would have thought that plastic was as important to 20th century American culture as Meikle persuades us it is? Well, the moviemakers of Mrs. Robinson, for one: "plastics, my boy, plastics," says one smug capitalist to the hapless anti-hero, played by Dustin Hoffmann. Meikle reminds us of this scene, just as he reminds us of what a revolutionary material Bakelite was, and how important to the 20th century vision of modernity and scientific-technological progress it was, as evidence that the mysteries of deep science could make an eternally malleable, shape-shifting, color-shifting material that could be used on stovetops and Kodak cameras alike. Meikle is obsessed and his obsession rubs off on us. The illustrations are great, too.
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By transponder on October 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a wonderful, precise, highly entertaining book. It tells the fascinating story of the origins and development of plastics in the USA (which practically means elsewhere in the world, also) and the personalities of those that created or discovered them. Beautifully, economically, and stylishly written, with impeccable research, this is anything but a dry academic treatise. I love it. What a shame it's out of print.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By MASASHI TAKIMOTO on September 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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