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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Syd Saramalia Lindsley
HSTAA 371
Seattle Campus

Consumption and Consumerism in the Modern U.S.

Surveys the rise of consumer society in the late-nineteenth-and twentieth-century United States including theories of consumption, the experience of consumer culture by different social groups, the role of the state in fostering consumption, the material impacts of consumer society in the U.S. and beyond, and critiques of consumerism.

Class description

This course treats consumerism as both an element of an economic system and as a way of thinking about the relationships between economics, culture and politics. In order to understand how and why consumption and consumerism have shaped U.S. society since the late 1800s, the course will explore a number of interconnected questions. What defines a "consumer society" and how did one develop in the U.S.? How have intellectuals, artists, activists, politicians, and others tried to explain the origins and meanings of consumer society? How have gender, race, and class shaped people�s experiences of consumption? How have state policies and agencies impacted consumption practices at different historical moments? How has consumerism played a role in global relations between the U.S. and "the world"?

Student learning goals

In this class, students will gain an understanding of how social, economic, and political developments brought about the "consumer society" we live in today, and an awareness of ongoing debates about the meaning of consumption. This class also seeks to improve students ability to: read and interpret "primary" historical documents by analyzing what they can tell us about the intentions and assumptions of their authors and audiences, understand and critically examine historians’ arguments, and to compare and contrast different historians' interpretations of similar material or events.

General method of instruction

Lecture and discussion.

Recommended preparation

Some previous coursework in American history is helpful but not required.

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Syd Saramalia Lindsley
Date: 03/14/2008