- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press (October 30, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674025725
- ISBN-13: 978-0674025721
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #571,647 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America
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From Publishers Weekly
The flip side of America's worship of novelty is its addiction to waste, a linkage illuminated in this fascinating historical study. Historian Slade surveys the development of disposability as a consumer convenience, design feature, economic stimulus and social problem, from General Motors' 1923 introduction of annual model changes that prodded consumers to trade in perfectly good cars for more stylish updates, to the modern cell-phone industry, where fashion-driven "psychological obsolescence" compounds warp-speed technological obsolescence to dramatically reduce product life-cycles. He also explores the debate over "planned obsolescence"-decried by social critics as an unethical affront to values of thrift and craftsmanship, but defended as a Darwinian spur to innovation by business intellectuals who further argued that "wearing things out does not produce prosperity, but buying things does." Slade's even-handed analysis acknowledges both manufacturers' manipulative marketing ploys and consumers' ingrained love of the new as motors of obsolescence, which he considers an inescapable feature of a society so focused on progress and change. His episodic treatment sometimes meanders into too-obscure byways, and his alarm at the prospect of thrown-away electronic gadgets overflowing landfills and poisoning the water supply seems overblown. But Slade's lively, insightful look at a pervasive aspect of America's economy and culture make this book a keeper.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Americans threw out 315 million computers in 2004, and 100 million cell phones in 2005. Most were still usable, and all contain permanent biological toxins (PBTs). Electronic trash, or e-waste, is rapidly becoming a catastrophic problem. To understand how we ended up in this alarming predicament, Slade recounts the fascinating history of American consumer culture and the engineering of our "throw-away ethic." Quoting an eye-opening array of primary sources, he exposes the strategies of obsolescence, first explicating the techniques companies have used to stimulate perpetual dissatisfaction with the old and desire for the new, thus engendering "psychological obsolescence." Next, he meticulously documents the establishment of the much more diabolical "planned obsolescence," the deliberate use of poor-quality materials to create a product's built-in "death date." Along the way, Slade portrays seminal inventors, advertisers, moguls, and their critics, while relating hard-to-believe stories about the machinations of such marketplace powerhouses as the automotive and communications industries. Slade's fresh and thought-provoking analysis of conspicuous consumption and its unintended environmental consequences closes with a clarion call for combating e-waste. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
It was therefore with some surprise that I found the book to be much narrower in scope than I had remembered it to be. Although it deals with broad trends of the 19th, 20th and early 21st centuries, it goes through them more as a series of museum exhibits than as flowing phenomena (as "The World Without Us" does, for instance). Readers are reintroduced to such inborn phenomena as the yearly model change, the Cold War and what it really means to own a cell phone. Even though Slade is working outward from example, rather than inward from concepts in abstraction, the text is never confusing and rarely boring.
Those who question consumer society at all, whether in whole or in part, would do well to have a look into the events that brought us to where we stand today - and what it means when something is indeed made to break.
Despite the fact that we are destroying our planet and poisoning ourselves, very little is written on planned obsolescence. We need to be better educated about how consumers are manipulated into developing costly and wasteful habits of consumption. It breaks my heart to watch how ignorance is cultivated in our consumer culture. we are all wasting our money and contributing to the destruction of the earth. we need more accessible books on this topic!!!
Thanks to these books , one can really have the feet on the ground.
I also liked that the book was like a short history of design marvels that the industrial machine has produced albeit with the side effects we all know of. This was new to me and made me quite interested to read more about 20th century product design..esp. cars.
What fascinated me more was the amount of innovation that was going on in that country from that time onwards in every area from and the marvels it produced apart from the problems (which is the theme of the book).
As other reviews have said...the book kinda deflates by the end..without much indepth look into recent products or any propositions to solve the obsolescence problem.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As some commenters before me have already noticed, the title is somewhat misleading.Read more
There is little correspondence between the ideas and concepts discussed in the...Read more