Buying Power: A History of Consumer Activism in America by Lawrence B. Glickman

By Lawrence B. Glickman

Faraway from ephemeral customer tendencies, deciding to buy eco-friendly and heading off sweatshop-made garments signify the newest issues on a centuries-long continuum of yankee customer activism. A sweeping and definitive heritage of this political culture, procuring strength lines its lineage again to our nation’s founding, revealing that american citizens used paying for strength to help explanations and punish enemies lengthy earlier than the be aware boycott even entered our lexicon.Taking the Boston Tea social gathering as his place to begin, Lawrence Glickman argues that the rejection of British imports by way of innovative patriots inaugurated a continual sequence of buyer boycotts, campaigns for secure and moral intake, and efforts to make items extra largely available. He explores abolitionist-led efforts to eschew slave-made items, African American client campaigns opposed to Jim Crow, a Nineteen Thirties refusal of silk from fascist Japan, more than a few modern boycotts, and rising events like reasonable exchange and sluggish nutrition. Uncovering formerly unknown episodes and interpreting well-known occasions from a clean standpoint, Glickman emphasizes either swap and continuity within the lengthy culture of patron activism. within the approach, he illuminates moments while its multifaceted trajectory intersected with fights for political and civil rights. He additionally sheds new gentle on activists’ dating with the shopper circulate, which gave upward thrust to lobbies just like the nationwide shoppers League and shoppers Union in addition to ill-fated laws to create a federal shopper defense Agency.A robust corrective to the proposal customer society degrades and diminishes its citizenry, deciding to buy energy offers a brand new lens wherein to view the historical past of the us.

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Not least among these success stories has been the staying power of both the tactics and the philosophy of consumer activism through every generation of American history. Among the chief reasons for Americans’ near-continuous uses of consumer activism are the enormous latitude of the category “consumer” and the low barriers to entry for potential boycotters or buycotters. These may also be its biggest weaknesses. If, as consumer activists in the twentieth century maintained, “everybody” was a consumer, this meant that, while they formed a large, even universal, category, consumers were inherently diffuse and diverse, possessing other, often more salient, identities as well, affiliations often at odds with a person’s consumer aspect.

But their efforts established a way of thinking about consumption and a mode of action that were themselves enduring, if unintended, achievements. Their understandings of the social consequences of consumption and of the consequent power of longdistance solidarity, while not ends in themselves for these groups, became the means by which citizens (and all those who aspired to take part in introduction 21 meaningful political action) could promote and effect social change. Even as particular movements faded and were forgotten, these means endured as a framework through which future generations conducted their own political efforts.

Later in the twentieth-century, this tension between leaders and followers took on a gender dimension, as the mostly male, scientifically trained leaders of the “consumer movement” sought to lead a movement whose ground troops were mostly women. Critics of the consumer movement sought to exploit this tension between leaders and followers by charging the leaders with an elitist and undemocratic distrust of the masses they professed to represent. A third tension relates to the fact that consumer activism was used for different, and sometimes opposing, purposes.

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