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Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture Hardcover – August 24, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1 edition (August 24, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068487055X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684870557
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,291,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Parents will be tempted to read Born to Buy as a kind of contemporary horror story, with ever more sophisticated marketing wunderkinds as Dr. Frankensteins and their children as the relentless monsters they create. Indeed, it's difficult to avoid feeling overwhelmed by the avariciousness, omnipotence, and ingenuity of the advertising industry Juliet B. Schor portrays when it comes to transforming preschool kids into voracious, 'tude-infused consumers. Intermixing research data with anecdotal illustrations, Schor chronicles the rapid development of a once-shackled industry that now markets R-rated movies to 9-year-olds. The mind boggles at the notion that Seventeen magazine's target readership is now pre-teens. While Schor unearths a surplus of information on the effectiveness of advertising, she's not nearly as adept at proposing effective responses. Reacting to the power and creativity of the consumer culture with politically unfeasible regulation and parental diligence is a little like attacking Frankenstein's creature with torches. Still, Born to Buy is an eye-opening account of an industry that is commercializing childhood with remarkable effectiveness and insouciance. --Steven Stolder

From Publishers Weekly

According to consumerism and economics expert Schor (The Overspent American), the average 10-year-old has memorized about 400 brands, the average kindergartner can identify some 300 logos and from as early as age two kids are "bonded to brands." Some may call it brainwashing, others say it's genius; regardless of how you see it, the approach is the same: target young kids directly and consistently, appeal to them and not the adults in their lives and get your product name in their heads from as early an age as possible. From TV shows and toys to video games, snacks and clothing, kids today, according to Schor, know too much yet understand too little, sopping up subliminal and not-so-subliminal messages of "buy, buy, buy." Drawing on a significant body of research, including interviews with everyone from advertising executives to the kids themselves, Schor exposes what she believes to be a huge cesspool of materialism, consumerism and commercialization that could be, and perhaps already is, leading to a generation of kids with no concept of what is important and truly necessary in life. By offering up her own ideas of what can be done by parents, educators, advertisers and others to lessen these problems, Schor goes beyond uncovering the problem and into the realm of concrete solutions.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Juliet B. Schor's research has focused on the economics of work, spending, environment, and the consumer culture. She is the author of Born to Buy, The Overworked American, and The Overspent American. Schor is a professor of sociology at Boston College, a former member of the Harvard economics department, and a Guggenheim Fellowship recipient. She is also a cofounder of the Center for a New American Dream, an organization devoted to ecologically and socially sustainable lifestyles.

Customer Reviews

This book is clearly written and very well researched.
Amazon Customer
The author takes an unusually balanced, non-partisan view, sympathizing with the easily-vilified advertisers she worked closely with as well as kids and parents.
As a childhood studies student I give this book a great five star rating!
Sara J. Delp

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book is an extended report on current marketing practices aimed at children and their results. The author begins by noting how marketing practices have changed over the last ten to fifteen years. In the 1970s and 1980s, when many of today's new parents were growing up, laws and industry practices provided some level of protection and privacy for children from the focus of marketing campaigns. Now, however, the gloves are off, and marketing firms shamelessly push everything from junk food to beer, cigarettes, cosmetics, and cars to `tweens, children between the ages of 6 and 12. Schor worked closely with marketing professionals while gathering information for this book so that she could obtain insider views. At the end of the book, Schor notes that these marketers generally feel horrible about what they do and the lengths they go to, but feel they have to continue in order to feed their own families.

The kinds of marketing practices that Schor describes in this book are shocking and outrageous. Many parents have heard of Channel One, an organization that puts TVs in schools for free, but parents may not be aware that in exchange for use of the equipment, administrators agree to force students to watch Channel One program complete with commercials while sitting in their seats and with the volume turned on. But force-feeding commercials to a captive audience of school kids is nothing compared to other current practices, such as having children conduct and even surreptitiously videotape focus-group data from friends at slumber parties that marketers pay them to organize.
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Carstens on December 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a practicing child psychologist, and I have followed the media and their impact on children for a number of years. I found Dr. Schor's arguement accurate and convincing. I think the book is a must read for parents seriously concerned about the way big advertising is socializing their kids.

By the way, I recommended the book to my book club -- all men, mostly with children. Me, a child psychiatrist, a lawyer and a bunch of engineer types. Not a group for "chick books." We thought it was one of the best we've read in a couple of years.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Kirsten Crase on November 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
It is no secret that children today wield more consumer power than ever, and that marketers have discovered them as one of the most profitable niches. But what is the real impact of all of this consumer attention on children?

In her latest book, renowned economist, consumer/family studies expert, and founding New American Dream Board Member Juliet B. Schor argues that this impact is detrimental, and something we ought to be paying much more attention to.

Says Schor, "We have become a nation that places a lower priority on teaching its children how to thrive socially, intellectually, even spiritually, than it does on training them to consume."

Indeed, her documentation of commercialization within schools is truly disturbing. And the results of a survey which Schor administered to a sampling of "tween"-aged children strongly indicate that heavy involvement in consumer culture jeopardizes children's well-being.

Ultimately, Schor argues that we need to take steps to decommercialize childhood, and she lays out several intriguing ideas for how to do so. Highly captivating and packed with vivid examples, this book should be required reading not only for parents but for anyone who cares about the future of our society.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Cleat C. Roberts on March 9, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was a math teacher for 7 years and I ultimately quit the job never to return. I worked hard and was proud of what I accomplished but increasingly found myself powerless to really affect the lives of my students in a meaningful and helpful way. I became aware of a billion dollar goliath staring down into my face squashing my feeble attempts to educate these youths. I worked 50 to 60 hours a week, 12 hour days sometimes, and even put a minimum annual amount of $500 of my own money into buying necessary instructional materials. Yet, it wasn't enough. I was confused. I didn't understand why so many students had the money to buy expensive brand name jeans that were well over 100 dollars yet could not afford to bring a 10 cent pencil to class. Students had cell phones, designer clothes, and all sorts of goodies and yet were disrespectful to me, challenged my authority, or simply just ignored me. Some students even wondered why they were not paid to go to school.

Obviously, their priorities were not education. And where do these attitudes come from? Why is it that schools struggle to get the money they need having bake sales (or selling their souls to corporations) for school supplies and such? What is it? Politicians love to go on about "No Child Left Behind" and yet rob the poor with lotteries to offset state funds for education just so they can build more prisons, roads, or whatever it takes for them to get re-elected.

The answer is clear. The answer is in this book. Juliet B. Schor does an outstanding job shining the light of truth upon the real evil-doers in the world. And I state whole heartedly that any person who is willing to exploit a child for their own personal gain is indeed an evil-doer. Make no mistake!
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