The All-Consuming Nation Chasing the American Dream Since World War II

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2021-11-02
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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In his 1958 "kitchen debate" with Nikita Khrushchev, Richard Nixon argued that the freedom to consume defined the American way of life. High wages, full employment, new technologies, and a rapid growth in population known as the "Baby Boom" ushered in a golden age of economic growth. By the
end of the twentieth century, consumerism triumphed over communism, socialism, and all other isms seeking to win hearts and minds around the world. Advertising, popular culture, and mass media persuaded Americans that shopping was both spiritually fulfilling and a patriotic virtue.

Mark Lytle argues that Nixon's view of consumer democracy contained fatal flaws -- if unregulated, it would wholly ignore the creativedestruction that, in destroying jobs, erodes the capacity to consume. The All-Consuming Nation also examines how planners failed to take into account the
environmental costs, as early warning signs--whether smog over Los Angeles, the overuse of toxic chemicals such as DDT, or the Cuyahoga River in flames--provided evidence that all was not well. Environmentalists from Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson and Paul Ehrlich to Ralph Nader and Al Gore cautioned
that modern consumerism imposed unsustainable costs on the natural world. Not for lack of warning, climate change became the defining issue of the twenty-first century.

The All-Consuming Nation investigates the environmental and sociocultural costs of the consumer capitalism framework set in place in the 20th century, shedding light on the consequences of a national identity forged through mass consumption.

Author Biography

Mark H. Lytle is Lyford Patterson and Mary Gray Edwards Professor of History Emeritus at Bard College where he helped to found and direct the Environmental and Urban Studies and American Studies Programs. Since joining the History Education Project at Yale in the 1970s, he has been active in
promoting the quality of teaching and learning history. His work in diplomatic, environmental, and cultural studies inspired the idea of consumerism as the organizing principle both in the United States and in its sense of mission abroad.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Cold War, Warm Kitchen, and the Trump Dilemma

Part I The Creation of a Consumer Democracy

1. Post War Choices

2. The Birth of a Consumer Democracy

3. Chapter Three: The Dark Side of Consumption

4. The Era of Populuxe

Part II The Era of Identity Consumerism

5. Segmented America and the New Identity Politics

6. The American Way of Life Polluted

7. The Golden Age of Consumption

8. Vietnam: Consumers Go to War

9. The Consumer Movement

10. Identity Consumerism

Part III The Age of Limits, The Age of Fractures

11. America Goes Green

12. The Age of Limits

13. The Environmental Battleground

14. In Debt We Trust

15. Fractured Science: The Battles Over Sustainability and Climate Change

Part IV E-Commerce in the Age of Global Warming

16. High Tech Consumers

17. The All-Consuming Nation Imperiled

Epilogue: Omens


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