Consumerism and the Movement of Housewives into Wage Work: The Interaction of Patriarchy, Class and Capitalism in Twentieth Century America

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1998 Hard cover New. No dust jacket as issued. 188 p. Audience: General/trade. BRAND NEW. gift quality.

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This book develops theoretically and historically the notion of consumerism and links observations concerning consumer culture, social class division, patriarchy and capitalism. The author describes the entry of women into the work force as a response to the values of consumerism, which superseded patriarchal values. This rising consumerism was due to a capitalistic social structure which denied the working class the choice of work hours. Consumerism required the breakdown of class boundaries and undermined the essential European culture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Comparative consumption became an external measure of social differentiation. The demise of the homemaker ideal and changing social norms regarding women interacted with consumerism to create motivations for wage work. Housewives increasingly engaged in wage work to improve living standards and as a vehicle for marital power.
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Editorial Reviews

Wells (economics, Arizona State U.) argues that consumerism, although a key element in the successful establishment of the homemaker ideal, ultimately undermines it and becomes one of the motivating forces for why middle and upper class women moved from homemaking to the work force in the 20th century. In the first two chapters, he suggests that we need a theory of consumption in order to understand why women moved into the labor force. The following four chapters discuss consumerism and the structure of capitalism; the contradictory marriage of consumerism and the homemaker ideal; gender-identity versus consumption-identity; and women's incomplete gains from consumerism. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781859724460
  • Publisher: Ashgate Publishing, Limited
  • Publication date: 12/24/1998
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.18 (w) x 9.17 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Table of Contents

Figures and tables
Introduction 1
1 Empirical research on married women's employment 5
2 Structural theories for married women's employment 27
3 Consumerism and the structure of capitalism 47
4 The contradictory marriage of consumerism and the homemaker ideal 77
5 Gender-identity versus consumption-identity: the battle at home 119
6 Conclusion: women's incomplete gains from consumerism 151
Appendix 157
Bibliography 165
Index 185
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