"Shopping has a lot in common with sex," Thomas Hine observes near the beginning of this wide-ranging exploration of the history and psychology of one of the most commonplace and important activities of modern Life. "Just about everybody does it. Some people brag about how well they do it. Some keep it a secret. Most people worry, at Least a little, about whether they do it right. And both provide ample opportunities to make foolish choices."
Choosing and using objects is a primal human activity, and I Want That! is nothing less than a portrait of humanity as the species that shops. We shop to nourish our bodies and to feed our fantasies. We shop to belong to groups. We shop to define ourselves as individuals. We shop to be powerful. We shop to be responsible. We shop to celebrate. We shop because we don't want to miss out on the excitement of life. I Want That! shows how these fundamental desires play out in today's malls, Web sites, boutiques, and superstores.
The book also offers a lively, fast-paced history of finding, choosing, and spending. It makes stops in the crossroads markets in which prehistoric merchants traded gold, amber, and obsidian; in the agora in Athens, where sharp setters wet their wool to make it weigh more, and everyone came to buy, talk, eat, and get their hair done. It visits the great fairs of medieval times -- brief, gaudy moments in monotonous, laborious lives -- and it considers the cities of Renaissance Europe, where shopping districts and the idea of individual expression arose side by side. It demonstrates how one simple idea -- manufacturing garments that were ready to wear -- brought the explosive growth of department stores and turned cities into vast shopping centers. It continues the story to the age of the Internet, when the buying never seems to stop, and, in times of crisis, political Leaders tout shopping, not sacrifice, as the act of patriots.
I Want That! tells the fascinating story of how shopping came to be the way it is -- and how you became the shopper you are.