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Supermarkets are a mundane feature in the landscape, but as Tracey Deutsch reveals, they represent a major transformation in the ways that Americans feed themselves. In her examination of the history of food distribution in the United States, Deutsch demonstrates the important roles that gender, business, class, and the state played in the evolution of American grocery stores.
Deutsch's analysis reframes shopping as labor and embeds consumption in the structures of capitalism. The supermarket, that icon of postwar American life, emerged not from straightforward consumer demand for low prices, Deutsch argues, but through government regulations, women customers' demands, and retailers' concerns with financial success and control of the "shop floor." From small neighborhood stores to huge corporate chains of supermarkets, Deutsch traces the charged story of the origins of contemporary food distribution, treating topics as varied as everyday food purchases, the sales tax, postwar celebrations and critiques of mass consumption, and 1960s and 1970s urban insurrections. Demonstrating connections between women's work and the history of capitalism, Deutsch locates the origins of supermarkets in the politics of twentieth-century consumption.
|Publisher:||The University of North Carolina Press|
|Product dimensions:||9.20(w) x 6.10(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Tracey Deutsch is assistant professor of history at the University of Minnesota.
What People are Saying About This
It seems amazing that no one had yet written about this ubiquitous feature of American physical and economic landscapes. Deutsch's argument about the rise of supermarkets is important because it avoids the sense of inevitability that sometimes surrounds contemporary public debates about corporate concentration and urban sprawl in the era of Wal-Mart. The narrative she presents is not a triumphant one, nor one in which smaller groceries are necessarily victims of corporate power and a 'bigger is better' mentality. Rather, she shows a) the contests over, and even failings of, smaller stores as a driver for supermarkets, rather than a result of them; b) the historical specificity of the time (and places) in which they emerged; and c) the negotiations between historical agents, ranging from the federal government to individual shoppers, who were involved in supermarket planning. This is still a story about power, economic, politics, and of course food procurement, but it is a nuanced and sensitive story, told in a measured way.Marina Moskowitz, University of Glasgow