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Where Stuff Comes From: How Toasters, Toilets, Cars, Computers and Many Other Things Come To Be As They Are Hardcover – March 14, 2003

1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0415944007 ISBN-10: 0415944007 Edition: First Edition

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The complicated, dynamic relationships between inventor, society, corporation, regulator, shopkeeper, community, family and customer is terrifically laid out by UC Santa Barbara and New York University sociologist Molotch in this persuasive monograph. Myriad links, he argues, ultimately produce and constantly change what we want, buy, keep and throw away; thus, neither consumers nor producers are to be blamed for our numerous possessions, since these items and constituencies all "lash-up" with one another, creating and reinforcing lifestyles and needs. Molotch's paradigmatic toaster requires an electric socket, bread and butter or jam to be useful. Adherence to "type-form"-modern or retro styling, color options to match kitchens, and knobs and controls for different functions-provides opportunities for the small appliance's owner to mark his/her identity and associate feelings with it, removing the object from the realm of the mundane. Manufacturing techniques, marketing, retail display and ultimate disposal also play large roles. The importance of all these factors is well argued, but despite the subtitle, no specific products (even the vaunted toaster, mentioned throughout and depicted graphically in the header) are studied in sustained or thorough enough detail to satisfactorily explain their continued forms or popularity-perhaps to avoid accusations of product placement. Even so, Molotch's description of systemic person-product complexes could work to end blame-the-consumer guilt-mongering in the popular discourse.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Successful products must fit into the whole panoply of life and society. The whole story can only be told by someone with a grand view of things, who sees both the trees of design and manufacturing and the forest of the social and political forces upon all of us. Three cheers for Harvey Molotch-this is a great book. -- Donald A. Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things
With great originality, Molotch has created a sociology of objects, seen as the product of the joint work of many people, especially designers. With this in hand, he brings new perspectives to old debates about consumerism and creativity. -- Howard S. Becker, author of Art Worlds
This is an engaging and enjoyable book about the design of everyday things. Harvey Molotch tells us what design is, who designers are, where design happens, and how society, culture, geography, the marketplace, and just about everything else imaginable all contribute to making things look and work the way they do. -- Henry Petroski, author of The Pencil and The Evolution of Useful Things
Human beings like stuff. We like to make, steal, hoard, and especially use things. How these goods come to be, how they are designed, manufactured, distributed, and especially used to make meaning is the central concern of industrial society. Where Stuff Comes From is a superb introduction to exactly how this process works...or doesn't. It's MUST reading for anyone interested in the power of the manufactured world. -- James B. Twitchell, author of Living It Up: Why We Love
Superb, a witty and verbally pyrotechnical book. Where Stuff Comes From is deeply subversive and revolutionizes our thinking about consumerism. -- Jules Lubbock, author of The Tyranny of Taste
[T]his is a terrific book that is both theoretically innovative and crammed with fascinating information. It will, I am sure, quickly become a classic as important as such other classics as Bourdieu's Distinction or Becker's Art Worlds. -- David Halle, professor of sociology and director of the LeRoy Neiman Center for the Study of American Society and Culture at the University of California, Los Angeles and adjunct professor at the City University of New York's Graduate Center
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; First Edition edition (March 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415944007
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415944007
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,501,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Richard Oliver on July 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Harvey Molotch gets network thinking. More than that, he does it. In his book, "Where Stuff Comes From", he shows, with brilliant simplicity, the complex web of interactions that lie behind creation and production of the everyday stuff that surrounds us. This is a book that every thinking designer should read. Actually, it's a book that anyone who cares about the world we live in should read. Sensible, humane and thoughtful, it brightened up my day.
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