Selling Culture: Magazines, Markets and Class at the Turn of the Century

Selling Culture: Magazines, Markets and Class at the Turn of the Century

by Richard Ohmann
     
 

When did mass culture first appear in the United States? How was it conceived, produced and disseminated? Who were the main players in its manufacture? Richard Ohmann argues persuasively that the pivotal juncture came at the turn of the twentieth century when magazines began to reach large audiences and to depend heavily on advertising revenues. Mass circulation of

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Overview

When did mass culture first appear in the United States? How was it conceived, produced and disseminated? Who were the main players in its manufacture? Richard Ohmann argues persuasively that the pivotal juncture came at the turn of the twentieth century when magazines began to reach large audiences and to depend heavily on advertising revenues. Mass circulation of magazines, combined with the rise of brand name products, facilitated the emergence of a homogenized mass culture (one produced by the few for the many in the name of profit) for the first time. This epochal change in the making of culture took place through the energy and innovations of diverse agents – publishers, readers, ad men, merchandisers—acting to achieve disparate but compatible goals. Ohmann shows how their efforts succeeded because they answered to the needs of big business at a time when industrial capitalism’s greatest achievements had led to its deepest crisis. Knitting together social and economic history with literary criticism and cultural theory, Ohmann develops a powerful new account of consumer society and of the social class in which it first took root.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Richard Ohmann is an author of rare talents: a theoretically sophisticated critic who never lets theory overpower historical evidence, never loses his eye for the sparkling anecdote or the revealing detail. Selling Culture is a gem of a book.”—Jackson Lears, author of Fables of Abundance: A Cultural History of Advertising in America

“Richard Ohmann’s excursions into the realms of American advertising and mass journalism are cultural studies at its best.”—Patrick Brantlinger

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Drawing, in part, from what the author, a former editor of College English, calls "the broad marxist tradition," this is a highly ideological social and economic history of the rise of low-cost, high-circulation monthly magazines in America at the end of the 19th century. The era marked what Ohmann sees as the beginning of a nationwide mass culture rooted in advertising that continues to this day, a culture based on using information and entertainment as commodities. Thanks to developments in technology, Ohmann notes, the U.S. moved from being an industrial country to a marketing one; and along the way, a professional managerial class established itself. Among the magazines given special attention (including a study of the fiction published) are Munsey's, McClure's and Ladies' Home Journal. Topics touched on include the birth of department stores, mail order and chain stores; the rise of the suburbs; and the triumph of advertising agencies, which, according to Ohmann, articulated the goals and formulated the strategies of "the big bourgeoisie." Less politically-minded readers might be tempted to skip the ideological sections and mine this highly researched study for the richindeed lavishamount of raw information it contains on the growth of popular culture. Illustrations. (June)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781859841105
Publisher:
Verso Books
Publication date:
07/17/1998
Series:
Haymarket Series
Pages:
420
Product dimensions:
5.96(w) x 9.08(h) x 1.19(d)

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