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Keeping up with the Joneses : envy in American consumer society, 1890-1930 /
Susan J. Matt.
imprint
Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, c2003.
description
223 p. : ill.
ISBN
0812236866 (cloth : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, c2003.
isbn
0812236866 (cloth : alk. paper)
contents note
City women and the quest for status -- Envy in the office -- "The prizes of life lie away from the farm" -- Coming of age in consumer society.
general note
Based on her Ph.D. thesis presented to Cornell University 1996.
catalogue key
4744375
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2003-07-01:
Matt (history, Weber State Univ.) traces the emergence of the modern concept of envy in the context of an emerging consumer society. Nineteenth-century middle-class morality expected Americans to be contented with what they had by suppressing envy, delaying gratification, and restricting acquisitiveness. The emerging 20th-century ideological paradigm of materialism required a view that encouraged consumption, especially a desire to "keep up with the Joneses." Social commentators now encouraged envy and emulation of the wealthy as social progress that raised living standards and aided economic growth. White, middle-class Americans experienced this changing ideology differently based on gender and urban or rural residence; children adopted the ideology quickest. Separate chapters present these varied experiences. The book is well researched and often nuanced, drawing largely on period proscriptive literature, social science studies, advertising, novels, and autobiographies. It does not consider other social groupings--new, old, lower-, middle- or upper-middle classes or ethnic groups that most adopted these traits. Matt overstates her data by positing a top-down modernization theory claiming nearly universal adherence, while ignoring those who resisted, ignored, or altered the formula to fit their needs, unlike Hal Barron's Mixed Harvest (CH, Feb'98). ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All academic levels. J. Borchert emeritus, Cleveland State University
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Drawing on memoirs, magazine articles, and sociological studies as well as reading between the lines of advertising copy, Matt gracefully evokes the pathos of consumerism in its formative years. . . . In highlighting the significance of envy as both the raw mental material and the ultimate product of consumer capitalism, this boldly argued book creatively extends the history of emotions."--American Historical Review
"Drawing on memoirs, magazine articles, and sociological studies as well as reading between the lines of advertising copy, Matt gracefully evokes the pathos of consumerism in its formative years. . . . In highlighting the significance of envy as both the raw mental material and the ultimate product of consumer capitalism, this boldly argued book creatively extends the history of emotions."- American Historical Review
"In this lively short book, Susan J. Matt surveys the legitimization of consumer desire that paralleled the demise of Victorian culture and the rise of modern culture from 1890 to 1930."--Journal of American History
"In this lively short book, Susan J. Matt surveys the legitimization of consumer desire that paralleled the demise of Victorian culture and the rise of modern culture from 1890 to 1930."- Journal of American History
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, July 2003
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
Envy used to be condemned as a destructive emotion & a sin - that was before the expansion of a consumer society brought the means of copying the rich within the grasp of middle America. Matt traces how attitudes changed with the rise of the department store, the catalogue & advertising.
Main Description
A century ago many Americans condemned envy as a destructive emotion and a sin. Today few Americans expect criticism when they express envy, and some commentators maintain that the emotion drives the economy. This shift in attitude is Susan Matt's central concern. Keeping up with the Joneses: Envy in American Consumer Society, 1890-1930 examines a key transition in the meaning of envy for the American middle class. Although people certainly have experienced envy throughout history, the expansion of the consumer economy at the turn of the twentieth century dramatically reshaped the social role of the emotion. Matt looks at how different groups within the middle class--men in white-collar jobs, bourgeois women, farm families, and children--responded to the transformation in social and cultural life. Keeping Up with the Joneses traces how attitudes about envy changed as department stores, mail-order catalogs, magazines, movies, and advertising became more prevalent, and the mass production of imitation luxury goods offered middle- and working-class individuals the opportunity to emulate upper-class life. Between 1890 and 1910 moralists sought to tame envy and emulation in order to uphold a moral economy and preserve social order. They criticized the liberal-capitalist preoccupation with personal striving and advancement and praised the virtue of contentment. They admonished the bourgeoisie to be satisfied with their circumstances and cease yearning for their neighbors' possessions. After 1910 more secular commentators gained ground, repudiating the doctrine of contentment and rejecting the notion that there were divinely ordained limits on what each class should possess. They encouraged everyone to pursue the objects of desire. Envy was no longer a sin, but a valuable economic stimulant. The expansion of consumer economy fostered such institutions as department stores and advertising firms, but it also depended on a transformation in attitudes and emotional codes. Matt explores the ways gender, geography, and age shaped this transformation. Bridging the history of emotions and the history of consumerism, she uncovers the connection between changing social norms and the growth of the consumer economy.
Main Description
A century ago many Americans condemned envy as a destructive emotion and a sin. Today few Americans expect criticism when they express envy, and some commentators maintain that the emotion drives the economy. This shift in attitude is Susan Matt's central concern. Keeping up with the Joneses: Envy in American Consumer Society, 1890-1930examines a key transition in the meaning of envy for the American middle class. Although people certainly have experienced envy throughout history, the expansion of the consumer economy at the turn of the twentieth century dramatically reshaped the social role of the emotion. Matt looks at how different groups within the middle class-men in white-collar jobs, bourgeois women, farm families, and children-responded to the transformation in social and cultural life. Keeping Up with the Jonesestraces how attitudes about envy changed as department stores, mail-order catalogs, magazines, movies, and advertising became more prevalent, and the mass production of imitation luxury goods offered middle- and working-class individuals the opportunity to emulate upper-class life. Between 1890 and 1910 moralists sought to tame envy and emulation in order to uphold a moral economy and preserve social order. They criticized the liberal-capitalist preoccupation with personal striving and advancement and praised the virtue of contentment. They admonished the bourgeoisie to be satisfied with their circumstances and cease yearning for their neighbors' possessions. After 1910 more secular commentators gained ground, repudiating the doctrine of contentment and rejecting the notion that there were divinely ordained limits on what each class should possess. They encouraged everyone to pursue the objects of desire. Envy was no longer a sin, but a valuable economic stimulant. The expansion of consumer economy fostered such institutions as department stores and advertising firms, but it also depended on a transformation in attitudes and emotional codes. Matt explores the ways gender, geography, and age shaped this transformation. Bridging the history of emotions and the history of consumerism, she uncovers the connection between changing social norms and the growth of the consumer economy.
Main Description
A century ago many Americans condemned envy as a destructive emotion and a sin. Today few Americans expect criticism when they express envy, and some commentators maintain that the emotion drives the economy. This shift in attitude is Susan Matt's central concern.Keeping up with the Joneses: Envy in American Consumer Society, 1890-1930examines a key transition in the meaning of envy for the American middle class. Although people certainly have experienced envy throughout history, the expansion of the consumer economy at the turn of the twentieth century dramatically reshaped the social role of the emotion. Matt looks at how different groups within the middle class--men in white-collar jobs, bourgeois women, farm families, and children--responded to the transformation in social and cultural life.Keeping Up with the Jonesestraces how attitudes about envy changed as department stores, mail-order catalogs, magazines, movies, and advertising became more prevalent, and the mass production of imitation luxury goods offered middle- and working-class individuals the opportunity to emulate upper-class life. Between 1890 and 1910 moralists sought to tame envy and emulation in order to uphold a moral economy and preserve social order. They criticized the liberal-capitalist preoccupation with personal striving and advancement and praised the virtue of contentment. They admonished the bourgeoisie to be satisfied with their circumstances and cease yearning for their neighbors' possessions. After 1910 more secular commentators gained ground, repudiating the doctrine of contentment and rejecting the notion that there were divinely ordained limits on what each class should possess. They encouraged everyone to pursue the objects of desire. Envy was no longer a sin, but a valuable economic stimulant. The expansion of consumer economy fostered such institutions as department stores and advertising firms, but it also depended on a transformation in attitudes and emotional codes. Matt explores the ways gender, geography, and age shaped this transformation. Bridging the history of emotions and the history of consumerism, she uncovers the connection between changing social norms and the growth of the consumer economy.
Main Description
Keeping Up with the Joneses Envy in American Consumer Society, 1890-1930 Susan J. Matt "How the Tenth Commandment (thats the one about coveting) became extinct is a tale of how the emotional style of this country mutated within the golden years of the nascent consumer economy, which Susan J. Matt . . . defines as the period between 1890 and 1930. She explains that we couldnt be a nation of consumers until we were given public license to envy."--"New York Times" "In this lively short book, Susan J. Matt surveys the legitimization of consumer desire that paralleled the demise of Victorian culture and the rise of modern culture from 1890 to 1930."--"Journal of American History" "Drawing on memoirs, magazine articles, and sociological studies as well as reading between the lines of advertising copy, Matt gracefully evokes the pathos of consumerism in its formative years. . . . In highlighting the significance of envy as both the raw mental material and the ultimate product of consumer capitalism, this boldly argued book creatively extends the history of emotions."--"American Historical Review" A century ago many Americans condemned envy as a destructive emotion and a sin. Today few Americans expect criticism when they express envy, and some commentators maintain that the emotion drives the economy. This shift in attitude is Susan Matts central concern. "Keeping up with the Joneses: Envy in American Consumer Society, 1890-1930" examines a key transition in the meaning of envy for the American middle class. Although people certainly have experienced envy throughout history, the expansion of the consumer economy at the turn of the twentieth century dramatically reshaped the social role of the emotion. Matt looks at how different groups within the middle class--men in white-collar jobs, bourgeois women, farm families, and children--responded to the transformation in social and cultural life. "Keeping Up with the Joneses" traces how attitudes about envy changed as department stores, mail-order catalogs, magazines, movies, and advertising became more prevalent, and the mass production of imitation luxury goods offered middle- and working-class individuals the opportunity to emulate upper-class life. Between 1890 and 1910 moralists sought to tame envy and emulation in order to uphold a moral economy and preserve social order. They criticized the liberal-capitalist preoccupation with personal striving and advancement and praised the virtue of contentment. They admonished the bourgeoisie to be satisfied with their circumstances and cease yearning for their neighbors possessions. After 1910 more secular commentators gained ground, repudiating the doctrine of contentment and rejecting the notion that there were divinely ordained limits on what each class should possess. They encouraged everyone to pursue the objects of desire. Envy was no longer a sin, but a valuable economic stimulant. The expansion of consumer economy fostered such institutions as department stores and advertising firms, but it also depended on a transformation in attitudes and emotional codes. Matt explores the ways gender, geography, and age shaped this transformation. Bridging the history of emotions and the history of consumerism, she uncovers the connection between changing social norms and the growth of the consumer economy. Susan J. Matt teaches history at Weber State University. 2002 - 232 pages - 6 x 9 - 10 illus. ISBN 978-0-8122-3686-6 - Cloth - $49.95s - 32.50 ISBN 978-0-8122-0272-4 - Ebook - $49.95s - 32.50 World Rights - American History, Cultural Studies, Business
Table of Contents
Introduction
City Women and the Quest for Status
Envy in the Office
""The Prizes of Life Lie Away from the Farm""
From ""Sturdy Yeoman"" to ""Hayseed'""
Coming of Age in Consumer Society
Conclusion
Notes
Index
Acknowledgments
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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