Buying Happiness
288 pages, 6 x 9
10 illus.
Release Date:01 Apr 2018

Buying Happiness

The Emergence of Consumer Consciousness in English Canada

UBC Press

The idea of Canada as a consumer society was largely absent before 1890 and familiar by the mid-1960s. This change required more than rising incomes and greater impulses to buy; it involved the creation of new concepts.

Buying Happiness explores the ways that key public thinkers represented, conceptualized, and institutionalized new ideas about consumption and consumer behaviours. Topics include the state’s creation of the first cost-of-living index in 1914–15, the development of consumer consciousness during the Depression, and the ways in which popular magazines encouraged an ethic of cautious consumerism in the postwar period.

Bettina Liverant’s fresh approach connects changes in consciousness to changes in the economy and in behaviour. As the figure of “the consumer” moved from the margins to the center of social, cultural, and political analysis, the values and concepts associated with consumerism were woven into the Canadian social imagination, encouraging certain practices and discouraging others. Consumer society developed as a contested, yet increasingly pervasive, way of thinking about ourselves, our relationships with others, and our relationships with things.

This book will serve scholars of consumer society, history, sociology, political economy, and economics. It will appeal to a wide array of readers interested in modern Canadian history, debates about the rise of consumer society, Canadian thought and culture, and intellectual history.

Bettina Liverant is an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of Calgary. She has written extensively on Canadian consumer history, on corporate philanthropy, and on architecture for both academic and general audiences.
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