January 03, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

I Want That! How We All Became Shoppers

Current Status
In Season
Thomas Hine
Nonfiction, Fiction
We gave it a B

Anyone who’s ever tussled over the last remaining bargain buy in the middle of an overheated, overcrowded Wal-Mart and pondered, ”How in the world did it come to this?” can find pointed answers to their query in Hine’s spirited summation on modern consumerism. Pegging our great nation of mall walkers as ”the barbarians at the checkout counter,” the cultural critic argues that shopping is more than just an easy way to blow a paycheck — it’s actually an important ritual that for centuries has helped humans fulfill their most basic needs (e.g., responsibility, self-expression, attention). In a wise move, Hine avoids shaping his tome into a capitalism-is-good treatise and instead crafts a lean study that lands somewhere between Lucky magazine and an Economics 101 textbook.

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