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Fables Of Abundance: A Cultural History Of Advertising In America Paperback – November 3, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0465090754 ISBN-10: 0465090753

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Fables Of Abundance: A Cultural History Of Advertising In America + Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920-1940 + A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (November 3, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465090753
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465090754
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #535,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

History professor Lears's study of the rise of American consumerism explores the repressive aspects of advertising's equating of material abundance with social status.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Lears (history, Rutgers Univ.) offers a scholarly, multidisciplinary discussion of the relationship between advertising and culture, straying into literature, art, religion, and other areas to show how advertising has affected culture rather than merely reflecting it. He views as false and even harmful the ad industry's attempt to portray itself as rational rather than emotional and imaginative, arguing that the emphasis on managerialism and rational thought have permeated and impoverished our culture by removing the "magic." In addition, the founders of the major ad agencies are seen as belonging to a different socioeconomic class than the class of those they are trying to reach. Though one often needs an unabridged dictionary at hand to read this densely written work, it provides a cogent assessment of the ad industry's need to be more connected with our past and our culture. Recommended for relevant research collections.
Sue McKimm, Cuyohoga Cty. P.L., Parma, Ohio
Copyright 1994 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

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
Fables of Abundance is not an easy book to read. Lears sometimes takes relatively simple ideas and complicates them with wordy rhetoric. If you can get through it, however, Fables of Abundance offers a novel approach to looking at the history of advertising. It does not discuss particular ad campaigns or products like many books of its type. It instead focusses on advertising's reoccuring themes (i.e. the carnivalesque) and images (i.e. woman as symbol of abundance). The author also provides biographies of important figures in the history of advertising. Overall, if you have patience and a dictionary, Fables of Abundance is for you.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By pnotley@hotmail.com on November 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Most people find advertising very irritating. This is not only understandable, but necessary and just. But what is it about advertising that should put one's teeth on edge? It is easy to believe that advertising encourages a world of greed and gaudy consumerism, a life of sterile self-indulgence. This was the view of the great American critic Thorstein Veblen. But one should avoid this temptation. In this book Jackson Lears provides a book that is not only revelatory about advertising but will help the reader about culture, nostalgia, memory, even life itself.
Lears, a historian who is not afraid to quote Marxists, agrees with Adorno that Veblen's attack on consumerism was an "attack against culture." Veblen represented a puritanical producerism that did not recognize the aesthetic and imaginative elements of consumption. Lears throughout this subtle and evocative book argues that advertising did not present the triumph of hedonism, but in fact the regulation of consumption to a strict regime of productivity, a trade-off between "routinized labor and zestful consumption." The book does not follow a simple narrative. But it does provide a fascinating account with many pregant apercus about the cold presence of an inhumane positivism, as well as the flaws of both the jargon of authenticity and the New York Intellectuals conflation of politics and style. Starting with the image of the breast and the cornocopia, and going on to the illusions of the Plain speech tradition, Lears looks not only at advertisements, but also cites much literature and theory to help him along. Melville, Dreiser, James and Proust are all invoked, Little Nemo and Krazy Kat are properly praised, coming to a benediction looking at the special achievement of Joseph Cornell and his boxes. Some readers of this review may find this summary pretentious, but those who go on to read Lears will find much that is truly revelatory.
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1 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jessica on August 28, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
this book was about 20 something dollars. i paid 4 and some change for this new book!!!!! it got in the mail around four days later with the standard mail, meaning, they shipped it as soon as one day from purchase. am super satisfied with the service. will definitely purchase future books from this store.
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19 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Nysocboy on July 4, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Advertising has become ubiquitous, on television, in the subway, on web pages, even on clothing. Even our ideas and opinions, religions and romances, have become commodified, slanted, and marketed. And most of the flood of commodification is the product of the postwar communications boom. Before 1950, one had newspapers, magazines, radio, and the occasional newsreel. Before 1900, one had placards and fliers.
So why is this book exclusively about the 19th century? The 19th century deserves 1 chapter, not all 400 pages. I am only vaguely interested in P.T. Barnum, but fascinated by how Tony the Tiger recreated American breakfasts during the Baby Boom. Or if Lear wanted to aim his book at historians, why the audacity to title it "a cultural history of American advertising"? It omits the most interesting eras of American advertising.
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