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Culture Jam: The Uncooling of America Hardcover – November, 1999

3.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Adbusters is a magazine that attacks the culture of consumerism by turning its own tactics against it--employing the glossy tactics of advertising to encourage people to take part in "Buy Nothing Day" and "TV Turnoff Week." Culture Jam takes the revolution to another level, as the magazine's publisher, Kalle Lasn, issues a call to arms to "the advance shock troops of the most significant social movement" of the early 21st century. Dissatisfied with the results of both academic and mainstream liberalism and feminism, Lasn harks back to the situationist roots of the 1968 Paris uprisings, a brief moment when it seemed possible that men and women might be able to wholly re-create not only their own lives but society as well.

That revolution stumbled and fell, however, and Lasn views contemporary existence as one in which people have almost entirely succumbed to the cultural mandates of consumer capitalism, turning to corporations for guidance about how to look and what to desire. He offers several tips on how you can "demarket your life," including talking back to telemarketers and intensified boycotts (want to strike a blow against tobacco giant Philip Morris? Stop buying Maxwell House coffees, Kraft dairy products, Post cereals, and Miller beer). Lasn also pushes for the return of corporations to a subordinate role in people's lives, citing the 1886 U.S. Supreme Court decision that rendered corporations "natural persons" in the eyes of the law as a horrendous miscarriage of justice that must be overturned. (One of his biggest targets is media conglomerates who are able to disseminate their ideology throughout the information spectrum; in an ironic twist of fate, perhaps, the publisher of Culture Jam became a division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation scant months before the book's release.)

Culture Jam is an extreme book--among its declarations: "consumer capitalism is by its very nature unethical"--and Lasn's reasoning is not without flaws. One of the weak links in his argument is his insistence that, because none of the major television networks will allow him to purchase airtime for his "subverts," there is "no democracy on the airwaves" and his freedom of speech is being denied. The First Amendment says only that "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech"; it says nothing about what he deems the "right to communicate ... through any media." On the other hand, he also raises a more plausible line of attack--since it's the government that grants broadcasters access to the airwaves, citizens should press for more say in how broadcast licenses are distributed. But whatever the book's excesses, Lasn is driven by a righteous anger--and Culture Jam may likely convince you, too, that the models of material success presented to us are not only inadequate to true happiness, they must be overturned. --Ron Hogan

From Library Journal

For Lasn (publisher of Adbusters Magazine), "America is no longer a country but a multitrillion-dollar brand": the media and corporate greed, he argues, have hooked Americans on conspicuous consumption, turning vigilant citizens into hypnotized consumers. America's salvation lies with culture jammers, "a loose global network of media activists" whose activist program is to topple the system the book sets forth. Lasn provides lots of statistics on the harmful effects of television and advertising, but his arguments tend to rely more on intuition than proven facts. The media's pervasive influence on American culture cannot be denied, but it's not clear that its influence is as pernicious as Lasn claims. Still, while his urgent, sometimes sanctimonious tone may not convince anyone but the already-converted, Lasn's book raises important issues that deserve discussion. Recommended for public and academic libraries.AWilliam Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow & Company; 1st edition (November 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688156568
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688156565
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,090,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I currently live in Japan where I have seen the dark side of the American Cultural Machine. Thousands of years of tradition have been swallowed up in a couple years by a dominant American system that uses insidious and underhanded techniques to sell its products and become rich. This is a wonderful attack on the current dominant paradigm- Work Work Work Buy Buy Buy(and if this continues unabated we are asking for a global environmental nightmare). I am not an environmentalist but this book uses solid arguments and puts forth interesting ideas. PLEASE READ THIS BOOK. It will give you a chance against the mega-corporations. Take back your mind and free will! This book is fun, interesting, and it could one day be seen as the book that started the newest counter culture: The Anti-consumer.
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By A Customer on January 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Having followed Adbusters.org (Lasn's organization) for a number of years I was pleased to see this book consolodate, organize, expand and clarify a number of the articles from the last couple of years worth of AdBusters magazine. It is not a "self-help" book to teach you how to particiapate in the next WTO protest. For a manual like that you will need to pick up something like Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals."
What you can expect. A book that is rich in imagery, metaphor and illustration. It is backed up by 214 end notes (that range in credibility). I would suspect that:
a) those actively engaged in downshifting will find it a rich and thoughty re-enforcement for decisions already made,
b) those moderate consumers with the dull recognition that something is not quite right with our corporation saturated environment will find it a provocative reading that will contribute to a range of subtle to significant mental and/or life changes,
c) those radicals committed to the overthrow of corporate america will find it either disappointing (for not going far enough) or as permission to use bent coins in vending machines, and
d) those not wanting to think about themes of environment, corporate responsibility and media saturation will find it excellent fodder for re-enforcing stereotypes of "those wacko liberal leftists"
In my case, it was gentle yet challenging prose with enough in the book for me to question, debate or aspire to learn more about. I was glad that it was not simply preaching to my previously self-realized reality.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of the most frustrating books I have come across in quite some time. Frustrating because I WANT to agree with the author, but his disorganized hodgepodge of romantic philosophy and counterculture deifying devoid of any sort of firmly constructed reason or definition has rendered his position impotent and ridiculous. Since I'm a longtime fan of clever "culture jammers" who confront corporate hegemony and the public who condones it--such radical satirists as Michael Moore, Negativland, etc.--I thought that I would enjoy a book describing this movement and the reasons, ideas and people behind it. What Kalle Lasn has presented, however, is a half-baked melange of ranting and whining, riddled with vaguery, self-contradiction and utterly subjective fragments of ideology presented as absolute truths. There are perhaps ten pages of startling, valuable and well presented information in this 215 page book, the rest is an unfortunate muddle which says nothing more original than "corporations are bad" and "think for yourself." At one point, Lasn paraphrases Bradbury, saying that a culture jammer "Jumps off cliffs and builds his wings on the way down." With "Culture Jam," Lasn has jumped off the cliff, thrown a few handfuls of feathers into the air and left a big mess at the bottom.
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Format: Hardcover
Kalle Lasn's book is clever, funny and sparklingly insightful. He is talking about the way the world can be, unmediated by the forces of marketing, and in touch with what counts. This is a handbook for revolution of the funnest kind!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If Daniel Quinn's Ishmael brought out the thoughtful part of my rebellion against Mother Culture, this book gives me a real kick in the rear to get out and do something. I think the book is rich, diverse and concise, and organized well enough to make clear the author's reason for writing it. After reading this book I'm all fired up, wired and inspired! There is hope for life beyond the shopping paradigm!
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Format: Hardcover
It was torcherous trying to finish this book. First, let me be clear, and say I agree 150% with the author's agenda and basic analysis. However, his choice of style demands too much from the reader. Long diatribes do little to engage the average reader that is unaware of the dominant social and political role that corporations play in our society. Instead of catch-phrases and cliches, the author would better serve the reader by dishing out a deeper analysis of the problem. Kudos to him for offering a plan of revolution, but he overestmates the future movements' powers and of his book. The rantings and raving of this author, although correct, are simply a detail in the larger problem of capitalism as practiced in America. I would avoid this book and read One World: Ready or Not for a better understanding of globalization and the cultural dominance of the corporation.
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