Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism

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Consumer Websites and Exercises

Arguably the most important factor in the emergence of global capitalism is the development of the consumer.   Without the consumer to spur economic growth and capital accumulation, the culture of capitalism could not  survive.  The following websites address consumption from various perspectives; many (but not all) are critical of the development.   As you browse through them, you can make your own judgements.

1998-99 Consumer’s Resource Handbook (CRH) [.pdf, 144p.]
http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/crh/respref.htm

Published by the US Government Consumer Information Center (CIC), the Consumer’s Resource Handbook is "144 pages of valuable information that no consumer should be without." The CRH offers tips and advice on a wide swath of topics, including car repair, purchase, and leasing; spotting and avoiding fraud; home financing; consumer privacy; protecting your credit report; and more. The handbook also includes a Consumer Assistance Directory, with a large collection of contact information for consumer organizations, better business bureaus, corporations, trade associations, state and local consumer protection offices, state agencies, and Federal agencies. The Handbook is available in HTML, text, and .pdf formats. [MD] (Scout Report, 5/21/99)

Ad*Access
http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/adaccess/

A collaboration of the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History and the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke University, this database contains images of more than 7,000 advertisements printed mainly in US newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1955. The images are divided into five major categories: Beauty and Hygiene; Radio; Television; Transportation; and World War II. ....While the site has obvious potential for cultural and business historians, general users may also enjoy browsing the images, which offer an interesting glimpse into how Americans conceived of themselves and consumer culture in the first half of this century. (Scout Report, Oct. 29, 1999)

Adbusters
http://www.adbusters.org/

Adbusters is a site devoted to exploding the myth of consumption, and exposing its costs. Go to the "cult you’re in" page, and click on Hunt the Autosaurus. What are some of the costs of our fascination with the automobile? What "exercise would the authors of the site suggest you perform to make automobile owners aware of the price we pay for our love affair with cars? What are some of the other ways that Adbusters has tried to expose the price we pay for overconsumption?

AdCracker.com
http://www.adcracker.com/index.htm

Created and maintained by Steve McNamara, marketing professional, AdCracker.com was built in order to "help creative creatures create" marketing campaigns and advertising concepts. This light-hearted Website offers helpful exercises and techniques to help creative professionals start thinking outside of the box. The site contains four main sections. AdBasics provides seven short "how tos" on the basics of creating a marketing scheme including "How to write a creative brief," "How to position a company, product or service," and "How to create and characterize a brand." While these lessons are deeply simplified, they do give a basic overview of these concepts. AdCreative offers some fun brainstorming techniques as well as tips for performing successful presentations. AdNauseam is a catch-all for short and miscellaneous pieces related to advertizing. Finally, IdeaMachine offers a no-nonsense, fast lesson on creating memorable ad copy. (Scout Report for Business and Economics, 5/17/01)

Adflip
http://www.adflip.com/

A collection of classic advertisements.  You can select ads by magazine, topic, year or product and get a good idea of the history of advertising in America.  You can even send ecards using the ads.  However, continued access to the site requires a subscription.

Advertising Quotes
http://advertising.utexas.edu/research/quotes/

Look no further than Advertising Quotes to find words of wisdom, humor, and importance about the world of advertising. This database, from the University of Texas Department of Advertising, is arranged in alphabetical order by subject and includes topics such as Envy, Emotion, Media Support, and Morality and Ethics. All quotes are cited.

Advertising World
http://advertising.utexas.edu/world/index.asp

Advertising, of course, is one of the major ways that producers of commodities and services encourage people to purchase and use them.  From the University of Texas, this site is one of the most complete guide to advertising on the Web.  A great place to begin advertising-related research. 

Affluenza
http://www.pbs.org/kcts/affluenza/

Affluenza is the PBS web site that accompanies the program of the same name. What exactly is Affluenza? How do you score on the Affluenza quiz? Are you badly infected? How realistic are the tips provided for beating the Affluenza bug?

The Biographies of Advertising Giants
http://www.ciadvertising.org/studies/adprac/adprac.html

A wonderful site that traces the history of advertising from the early nineteenth century to the present. If nothing else, the examples illustrate how sophisticated the process of compelling people to consume has become over the past 200 years. For example, take a look at Francis Wayland Ayer, one of the early pioneers. What were some of the products he designed ads for? How might they be received today? What were some of the major innovations in advertising introduced by Helen Landsdown Resor? Who were some of the more memorable characters produced by Leo Burnett and his agency?

Body Icon: Fear and Loathing the Mirror
http://www.jrn.columbia.edu/newmedia/projects/masters/bodyimage/toc.html

The concepts of style and beauty play a major role in the culture of capitalism in promoting consumption.  To acquire the "look," whatever it is, requires spending.  The body is, in effect, commodified.  This site examines the cost to women of the body image they are encouraged to accept.  Check out, specifically, the section on the body as commodity.

Book Reviews on Consumer Culture
http://www.indiana.edu/~wanthro/reviews.htm

A site maintained by Richard Wilk at the University of Indiana that provides reviews of books addressing the issues of consumption and consumerism. Check out the review of The McDonaldization Thesis by George Ritzer. What does Ritzer mean by "McDonaldization"? What does the author mean by "new means of consumption" and how do they affect how people act and think? What criticisms does the reviewer have of Ritzer’s book?

Center for a New American Dream
http://www.newdream.org/

The Center for a New American Dream is a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to reducing and shifting North American consumption while fostering opportunities for people to lead more secure and fulfilling lives.  On the site you can get all kinds of information on how and why we consume what we do, and what can be done about it.  You can also join in discussions on various topics, often led by authors of works on consumption.  Check out the main menu; what do they have to say about the relationship between population and consumption?  What do they have to say about the decline of community?

Center for Consumer Freedom
http://www.consumerfreedom.com/

A wonderful example of how corporations attack anyone or anything that threatens their interests.  The site, funded by, among others, Coca-Cola, Wendy's and Tyson Foods, attacks groups ranging from animal rights activists to those warning against the very real problem of obesity (for a graphic illustration of the growth in obesity check out the Center for Disease Control date at http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity/trend/maps/).  The site is a textbook example of the methods used by industry to protect their interests.  Note how they attempt to discredit any research or public action that might raise concerns about what people, particularly children, might eat or drink.

Channel One
http://www.commercialalert.org/index.php?category_id=2&subcategory_id=54&article_id=103

A site from Commercial Alert that focuses on Channel One, the marketing company that delivers two minutes of advertising and ten minutes of "news" to captive audiences of about eight million students in 12,000 schools across the country.  The site also features analysis of the role of Coke and Pepsi in defining children's education.  You will find links to articles, congressional testimony, and other materials on the effects of advertising in schools.

Commercial Alert
http://www.commercialalert.org/

Commercial Alert is "devoted to helping families, parents, children, and communities defend themselves against harmful, immoral or intrusive advertising and marketing, and the excesses of commercialism. Commercial Alert will counteract commercialism in homes, schools, and communities across the country."   For example, tobacco companies were criticized for their ads appealing to children; what are some of the ads that beer companies use to appeal to the young?

Consumer Center
http://www.ucsusa.org/index.cfm

The Union of Concerned Scientists provides this Website to illustrate the relationship between consumption and environmental pollution.   One of the highlights of the site is the Great Green Web Game that allows you to test your knowledge of the affects of your consumption patterns.

Consumer Links and Brochures—FRB Atlanta
http://www.frbatlanta.org/consumer.cfm

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has compiled this useful collection of links and online brochures about a variety of consumer-oriented information. The resources are mainly from government sources including other federal reserve banks, the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Information Center, and Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. The brochures, which are organized by subject, cover a wide range of topics including debt issues, auto leasing, small business credit, and electronic money and direct deposits. All of the information is written for consumers in easy-to-understand language. (Scout Report for Business and Economics, 6/1/2000)

ConsumerSearch.com
http://www.consumersearch.com

Whether you are considering buying a luxury sport utility vehicle or a new blender, this site offers invaluable, unbiased consumer product information. ConsumerSearch.com strives to provide "the latest and best competitive analysis of products" for free. The site divides goods into basic, logical categories, and for each product, offers three distinct and related services. Fast Answers is an at-a-glance compilation of reviews (gleaned from other sources) of each specific product; it also rates the best products according to the reviews. For an in-depth analysis of both the product and the experts that reviewed the products, readers will want to peruse the Full Story section. Finally, All the Reviews Reviewed consists of the ConsumerSearch.com’s editors’s descriptions, ratings, and opinions of each of the review sources. At present, the list of products on ConsumerSearch.com is not very extensive. However, the products that are covered are reviewed thoroughly and responsibly. New users to the site may want to browse the FAQs and the About ConsumerSearch.com section, in order to learn more about the company, its mission, and services. As the site continues to expand, users may choose to subscribe to the ConsumerSearch.com free newsletter which will send email alerts for the latest product reviews. (Scout Report, 5/5/00)

Consumerism and the New Capitalism: An Essay by R.Cronk
http://www.westland.net/venice/art/cronk/consumer.htm

This is an interesting essay on the growth and consequences of consumption in America. How does Cronk define consumerism? How has consumerism redefined how we evaluate our own self-worth? What is the role of the media in promoting consumerism? What is the role of the corporation in promoting the values associated with consumption?

Consumer E-News Alert
http://www.sheller.com/enews.htm

Consumer E-News Alert is a free biweekly newsletter that focuses on a range of consumer issues, such as scams, consumer rights, and business misconduct.

Consumer federation of America
http://www.consumerfed.org/

CFA is first and foremost an advocacy organization, working to advance pro-consumer policy on a variety of issues before Congress, the White House, federal and state regulatory agencies, and the courts. Its staff works with public officials to promote beneficial policies, to oppose harmful policies, and to ensure a balanced debate on important issues in which consumers have a stake. CFA is also an educational organization, disseminating information on consumer issues to the public and the media, as well as to policy makers and other public interest advocates. Conferences, reports, books, brochures, news releases, a newsletter, and a web-site all contribute to CFA's education program.

Consumer Direct
http://www.consumerdirect.gov.uk/

Launched  by the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), this metasite offers annotated links to Websites containing "consumer information and advice run by Government departments, consumer organisations and others." The resources are organized in eight principal sections: cars, food, holidays & travel, home improvement, money & finance, safety at home, shopping, and utilities. In addition to Websites, some sections also include links to government papers, bills, and other publications. An internal search engine and a list of information sources are also provided. (Scout Report, 7/30/99)

CNET Shopper.com
http://shopper.com/

It should hardly be a surprise that one of the main functions of the internet is to sell things. This site is devoted to selling computer products and should serve as a good example of the genre, as well as providing you with a convenient place to check out computer product prices. It also represents a good example of the Internet’s capability of empowering consumers by providing the best price information. But what then happens to local computer stores? And, by extension, what happens to local communities if everyone starts shopping on the Web?

Consumers International
http://www.consumersinternational.org/

It took hundreds of years for labor to organize and successfully negotiate with employers for better pay and working conditions. It may also take that long for consumers to organize and use their power to alleviate the problems created in the culture of capitalism. Consumers International is one organization that be be the forerunner of such organizational efforts. What is the history and goals of Consumers International? What are some of the initiatives that the organization has taken to influence public policy regarding issues of concern to consumers? What are some of the organizations that Consumers International works through?

Consumers Union
http://www.consumersunion.org/

Consumers Union is the publisher of the magazine, Consumer Reports. This site contains information regarding such things as the health, environmental, and social consequences of various products. For example, the site contains information on the affects of corporate advertising on children and its infiltration into schools. What kinds of materials are corporations, such as McDonalds and others, supplying to teachers? Why is there pressure on teachers as well as school administrators, to use materials distributed by corporations? What sorts of issues and problems does the use of such materials present to educators?

Consumer World
http://www.consumerworld.org/

Funded by Master Card, Consumer World is a megasite for access to all kinds of products and services, including places to complain or find out about product safety and reliance. Here you can find the lowest rates for credit cards, home mortgages, or just "shop till you drop." A good site for developing a scavenger hunt. Where can you go to get information on buying a car? What is the best price you can get for a plane ticket for Paris?

Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920 (EAA)
http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/eaa/

This new, collaborative, effort between the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History and Duke University's Digital Scriptorium contains images of over 9,000 advertising items and publications dating from 1850 to 1920. The site is designed to chronicle the rise of consumer culture in America in the late nineteenth century as well as the development of a professionalized advertising industry. The images are grouped into eleven collections, each of which offers background information and may be browsed or searched. Users may also search the entire database by keyword or illustration content. Each collection is browsed via a long list of subjects which expand into a list of items when selected, not unlike many American Memory collections. Each item is offered as a thumbnail with two choices of resolution size. Information provided includes title, year of publication, company, product, illustration type, and notes. A solid resource for historians or anyone interested in the history of American consumer culture. (Scout Report, 12/15/00)

FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) Consumer News
http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/index.html

FDIC is a government agency to protect consumers and their investments. The site provides information on how consumers can protect themselves from fraud and financial loss. For example, what can you do if you think you have been the victim of fraud? What are some of the tips offered to help children learn the value of money (remember that one)?

FTC's Top 10 Consumer Fraud Complaints of 2001 [.pdf]
http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2002/01/idtheft.htm

The Top 10 Consumer Fraud Complaints of 2001 report has recently been released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). According to the FTC, identity theft headed the top 10 consumer fraud complaints, accounting for forty-two percent of the 204,000 complaints entered into the FTC's Consumer Sentinel database last year. Howard Beales, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, stated that "consumers who report their complaints to the FTC are helping law enforcement find and stop rip-off artists." Therefore, if you have been a victim of an egregious consumer violation or misdeed, do no hesitate to call the FTC and report your complaint(s); the complaints in the Consumer Sentinel database are a valuable tool for state and federal consumer protection agencies that investigate and prosecute fraud.

The Global Consumer Culture Project
http://www.indiana.edu/~wanthro/consum.htm

A site developed by Richard Wilk to provide resources for the study of the consequences of the expansion of the culture of capitalism. Start with the brief paper by Wilk, Emulation and Global Consumerism. What are some of the questions that need to be answered about the extent to which people around the world will emulate Western models of consumption?

Journal of Consumer Culture
http://www.sagepub.com/journal.aspx?pid=265

The Journal of Consumer Culture is a major new journal designed to support and promote the dynamic expansion in interdisciplinary research focused on consumption and consumer culture, opening up debates and areas of exploration.  There is a subscription fee, but it provides access to some of the latest thinking on consumption in the culture of capitalism.

Journal of Research for Consumers
http://www.jrconsumers.com/

The Journal of Research for Consumers is a Web-based interdisciplinary journal publishing consumer research that furthers the interests of consumers through information provision and theoretical advancements. Empirical, theoretical, and methodological articles are featured, along with commentaries and essays that seek to further consumers' understanding of the consumption process and its many implications. The Journal is a "free-to-air" online-only journal.

Just Shopper's Guide
http://shell.ihug.co.nz/~stu/shoppersguide.htm

A series of informative bulletins on issues of ethical shopping.
Some information is specific to a New Zealand audience.  Created and published by Pat Scott, the web version includes links to further online information on each topic.   

Marketing in the Modern Era
http://www.library.hbs.edu/hc/exhibits/trade/

An interesting look into the history of marketing and advertising.   "Marketing in the Modern Era: Trade Catalogs and the Rise of 19th-Century American Advertising is a current exhibit at Harvard University’s Baker Library. Selected bibliographies of primary and secondary sources are provided with contact information, and a detailed introduction presents photos and features on nineteenth-century industrial growth, leisure activities, and consumer and household goods." (Scout Report for Business and Economics, 2/25/99)

"Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children" -- FTC [.pdf]
http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2000/09/youthviol.htm

With a bit of fanfare, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released on September 11 a new 104-page report which accused the entertainment industry of marketing violent material to children, even when that material is labeled for mature audiences only. The report was conducted after requests by President Clinton and some members of Congress in the wake of the school shootings in Columbine, CO. The report finds that, though entertainment companies have taken self-regulating steps to identify mature content, they regularly target children under seventeen in marketing those same products. While recommending additional self-regulation by the industry, the FTC report does not call for any legislative remedies at this point. In a well-timed interview with the New York Times, Vice-President Gore chided the entertainment industry and stated that he would seek new regulations if the report's recommendations were not adopted within six months. The full text of the report is available in its entirety or by section at the FTC site, along with the official press release. (Scout Report 9/15/00)

National Consumer Law Center
http://www.consumerlaw.org/

One consequence of overconsumption is staggering debt that exceeds what a person can realistically repay.  One result is the growth of agencies and lawyers to help people recover from debt. The National Consumer Law Center, a nonprofit organization operating out of Boston College School of Law, provides information to people on what they can do when faced with financial problems What are some of the services provided by the Center? What are their 16 rules for choosing which debts to repay first? What can be done to prevent older people from falling victim to telemarketing scams?

New Cultures and Economies [.zip, Word97]
http://homepages.gold.ac.uk/slater/

Don Slater, Department of Sociology, University of London, shares interdisciplinary research in economic sociology at the New Cultures and Economies site. Readers may download extensive bibliographies on consumer culture and market society topics in Word97 or .zip formats or browse course pages online, and the Sociology of the Internet section, now in progress, aims to create dialogues among scholars of electronic media. [MW] (Scout Report, 5/28/99)

New Road Map Foundation
http://newroadmap.org/default.asp

A website dedicated to exploration ways to live more simply and with less consumption.   The site is built around the book, Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. 

Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929 [RealPlayer, .wav, .mpg]
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/coolhtml/coolhome.html

A good source for a perspective on the history and development of consumerism in America.   "Prosperity and Thrift consists of a vast collection of resources about the Calvin Coolidge presidency and the economy of the 1920s, including written materials, photographs, audio files of Calvin Coolidge’s speeches, and several volumes of Coolidge’s personal papers. The site charts myriad aspects of this time period, offering background, analysis, and historical resources on such topics as Merchandising and Advertising, African Americans and Consumerism, and Poverty in the 20s. Accompanying the collection is the Guide to People, Organizations and Topics in _Prosperity and Thrift_, an alphabetized resource index." (Scout Report for Business and Economics, 8/12/99)

The Pulse: A Consumer’s Guide to Public Opinion Data on the Web—EPI
http://www.epinet.org/pulse/pulse.html

"Recently debuted by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), The Pulse is a comprehensive "consumer’s guide" to public opinion data on the US economy and related topics. Produced by Ruy Teixeira, director of EPI’s Politics and Public Opinion Program, the site aims to provide the public with accurate, unbiased information about public opinion data. The Pulse summarizes and links to polling data, public opinion data, and expert data analyses on issues such as the economy, Social Security, education, health care, and globalization. In addition, the site provides a bimonthly, in-depth analysis of a single public opinion issue; currently, The Pulse is scrutinizing polling data related to Social Security. The Pulse is a special Web feature of EPI, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that encourages public debate about strategies to achieve a prosperous and fair economy." (Scout Report for Social Sciences, 5/4/99)

Solemates: The Century in Shoes [Quicktime, Flash]
http://www.centuryinshoes.com/

"Produced by The Marketing Store as an example of how the Internet can be used as a "multidimensional information delivery tool," this very attractive site is a joy for anyone with an ardor for footwear fashion. The heart of the site is a decade-by-decade look at shoes from the 1900s to the 1990s. Each decade features an illustrated introductory essay, six examples of representative footwear that can be examined in detail, period advertisements, and Quicktime clips of "Scenes from the Decade" Other offerings include a timeline of great moments in shoe history and three special features: Dangerous Shoes, Ga-Ga for Gaza, and Ruby Slippers." (Scout Report, 7/23/99)

Toy Industry Association
http://www.toy-tma.com/

The construction of kinderculture discussed in Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism owes much to the toy industry.  This is the industry site where you can find  industry information..

US Consumer Gateway
http://www.consumer.gov/

A site maintained by the Federal Government to report on product information and fraudulent practices, as well as penalties paid by corporations for questionable practices. What are some of the items contained in the site’s "In the Spotlight" page?

The Wizard of Oz: An American Fairy Tale
http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/oz/

A Library of Congress exhibit celebrating the work of L. Frank Baum.  The site provides an overview of Baum's career, but, interestingly, leaves out his work as a display window designer and his role as the founder of one of the major window display journals.  Thus, while interesting, the site neglects to discuss Baum's role in the creation of the consumer (detailed in Chapter One of Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism).

 

 

 

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