Longing and Belonging: Parents, Children, and Consumer Culture

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University of California Press, Feb 2, 2009 - History - 301 pages
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"Tying shoelaces, jumping rope, listening to circle-time stories, Allison Pugh immersed herself in the busy--and commercial-studded--worlds of schoolchildren. In this brilliantly argued, lyrically written and riveting book, Pugh asks how kids cope with the incessant ads for the must-have toy, the latest shoe, the coolest game. Children don't cave into or resist capitalism, Pugh tells us. They build worlds of their own from it. 'Corporate marketing acts as a powerful mint, ' she writes, 'always churning out shinier coinage, but not always dictating whether or how those tokens are used.' They set up their own Lilliputian 'economies of dignity' which poignantly determine who does and doesn't feel worthy of belonging to the group. A complement to Juliet Schor's Born to Buy, Pugh's book is a must-read."--Arlie Hochschild, author of The Time Bind and The Commercialization of Intimate Life

"Pugh is curious about what parents buy for their kids, what they refuse to buy, and why they make the decisions they do. But this isn't a marketing book. Far from it: Pugh is very critical of corporations that cynically target young children. But she is attempting to understand the social and emotional consequences of this commercial culture for children and for family life. She argues--quite convincingly--that consumerism has negatively impacted the quality of relationships in families and in society in general. By focusing on consumption instead of production, she also develops a fresh new approach to analyzing social inequality."--Christine Williams, author of Inside Toyland: Working, Shopping, and Social Inequality

"In her richly documented ethnographic study, Allison Pugh first identifies, then resolves, an important contrast in American working-class and middle-class approaches to their children's acquisition of consumer goods: symbolic indulgence on the working-class side, symbolic deprivation on the middle-class side. Her work offers deep insights into children's experience in contemporary America."--Viviana Zelizer, Princeton University

"Written with extraordinary grace and insight, Allison Pugh has given us a truly original and fresh way of understanding the material desires of children. With vivid interviews, she shows with both subtlety and force how the emotional needs of children and their parents has shaped overconsumption today. This should be read well beyond the academy and for a long time."--Gary Cross, author of An All-Consuming Century

"This imaginative and beautifully written book makes a significant contribution to the study of parents, children, consumption, and lived experiences of social inequality."--Barrie Thorne, author of Gender Play

"Going well beyond the standard story of manipulative advertising that turns our kids into greedy little consumption addicts, Longing and Belonging provides a fascinating portrait of how children themselves come to translate Gameboys and Nikes into personal dignity and social membership. This smart and highly readable book offers multiple insights into the cultures of class, race, parenting, and childhood in an increasingly materialistic America."--Sharon Hays, author of Flat Broke with Children: Women in the Age of Welfare Reform

"With Longing and Belonging, Allison Pugh brings the study of children's consumer lives to a level of insight and clarity rarely encountered in the often panic-stricken and sanctimonious discussions surrounding kids and commercial life. Skillfully navigating the social landscape where children, inequality and consumer culture intersect, Pugh combines ethnographic empathy with deft sociological analysis in a manner that invites the reader to enter children's lives and see the world from their perspectives. This work represents a break from the received wisdom about children and commercialism and surely will mark a transition to new and thoughtful approaches to thinking about how consumption matters in everyday life."--Daniel Thomas Cook, author of The Commodification of Childhood


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Chapter 1 Care and Belonging in the Market
Chapter 2 Differences in Common Studying Inequality
Chapter 3 Making Do Children and the Economy of Dignity
Chapter 4 Ambivalence and Allowances Affluent Parents Respond
Chapter 5 The Alchemy of Desire into Need Dilemmas of LowIncome Parenting
Chapter 6 Saying No Resisting Childrens Consumer Desires
Chapter 7 Consuming Contexts Buying Hope Shaping the Pathways of Children
Chapter 8 Conclusion Beyond the Tyranny of Sameness

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About the author (2009)

Allison J. Pugh is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Virginia.

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