Andreas Wirsching has written an ambitious paper about the rise of the ‘consumer society’ in the twentieth century and its implications for historical research. I should say at the outset that I am sympathetic to his warnings against a Whig history. The career of the ‘consumer society’ needs to be historicised. My main problem is that ‘the consumer society’ is used in multiple, slippery ways in this article which moves back and forth between treating it as an ideological construct, an analytical concept and as a material reality of how people live their lives. It sometimes appears as ‘paradigm’, yet at other times it is the real thing, ‘a burgeoning consumer society’.
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