One Nation Under Goods
Malls and the Seductions of American Shopping
By James J. Farrell
(Smithsonian Books, Paperback, 9781588342928, 336pp.)
Publication Date: July 6, 2010
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Loved and hated, visited and avoided, seemingly everywhere yet endlessly the same, malls occupy a special place in American life. What, then, is this invention that evokes such strong and contradictory emotions in Americans? In many ways malls represent the apotheosis of American consumerism, and this synthetic and wide-ranging investigation is an eye-popping tour of American culture's values and beliefs. Like your favorite mall, One Nation under Goods is a browser's paradise, and in order to understand America's culture of consumption you need to make a trip to the mall with Farrell. This lively, fast-paced history of the hidden secrets of the shopping mall explains how retail designers make shopping and goods “irresistible.” Architects, chain stores, and mall owners relax and beguile us into shopping through water fountains, ficus trees, mirrors, and covert security cameras. From food courts and fountains to Santa and security, Farrell explains how malls control their patrons and convince us that shopping is always an enjoyable activity. And most importantly, One Nation Under Goods shows why the mall's ultimate promise of happiness through consumption is largely an illusion. It's all here—for one low price, of course.
James Farrell is professor of history and director of the American Studies program at St. Olaf College. He is the author of Inventing the American Way of Death, 1830-1920 and The Spirit of the Sixties: Making Postwar Radicalism.
“The Mall is the dipstick of our 20th-century culture. It's a quart down and dirty and James Farrell is telling us why.”—Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy and managing director of Envirosell
“James Farrell shares his deeply held moral conviction that there is something wrong with a society based on the continued cycle of ‘work-and-spend,’ but he never preaches, and, like many other Americans, he revels in the details of the mall experience. Carefully researched, often laugh-aloud funny, and sometimes brilliant, One Nation under Goods is an important book.”—Susan Strasser, author of Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Making of the American Mass Market and Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash.