978-1-55963-535-6 / 9781559635356

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About the book:

This collection of essays by an all-star roster of social critics takes a skeptical look at American and global capitalism on the eve of the 21st century. Some of the contributors, such as William Greider, are downright pessimistic: "If the world is to save itself from ecological disaster, the redemption cannot begin among the poor," he writes. "Only the wealthy few--that is, nations such as ours--have the power and the wherewithal to rescue us all from the impending consequences of mass consumption on a global scale." Most of the other essayists treat mass consumption as a mixed bag. Novelist Jane Smiley, for instance, notes that consumerism fed feminism by inventing appliances, phones, and cars--and freed women from domestic chores. "There is much talk of the emptiness of modern life, but think of emptying chamber pots of the accumulated waste products of seven or eight household members every day for the rest of your life," she writes. These pages are full of good writing and smart observations. Bill McKibben, for example, suggests that "instead of defining ourselves by what we buy, we define ourselves by what we throw away." Other contributors include Alex Kotlowitz, Edward Luttwak, and Juliet Schor, as well as editor Roger Rosenblatt. All told, Consuming Desires is an eclectic mix of thought-provoking essays on the culture of materialism. --John J. Miller

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