Land Of Desire



Land of Desire:
Merchants, Power, and the Rise
of a New American Culture
William Leach
Random House; 1993
428 Pages

The transformations that America went through in order to become a
capitalist country were very significant and are sometimes looked past.
However, in the book Land of Desire, the author, William Leach extensively
goes into many of those things. There were many things that went into this
ranging from specific poeple and incidents to outside places and things. Leach
shows each individual ordeal and explains the personal effect that it had on the
industry, as well as how society accepted, or in some cases condemned such
things. All of this comes from his own education and understanding of the
situation. He shows the drift into a capitalistic country as being a gradual
change in one thing that then led to another, and to another, and so on. Not to
mention that many, many things took part in it. And that if such things had
not occurred, we would not be the country that we are today.
There isn\'t a whole lot of information on William Leach, but he does
appear to be a very well-thought out man. This is not his only historical book
and he\'s also done other things, including the book True Love and Perfect
Union: The Feminist Reform of Sex and Society, and editing The Wonderful
Wizard of Oz. That specifically shows up a number of times in Land of Desire.
He refers to L. Frank Baum (the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz)
throughout the book, as well as to the book itself. Other than that, though,
there\'s not much else I know about him, too bad it\'s not exactly the most
helpful information as far as why he thinks the way he does.
Leach broke the book up into 5 major parts. The first being the preface
and the introduction. These two parts laid out the main ideas of the book.
After that, Leach went into the three main sections of the book, which end up
being the three main steps in the transformation into capitalism. The first
entitled Strategies of Enticement, went into a little bit of history, as well as the
first recognition of capitalism and were it all began. The second section,
Circuits of Power, retold stories of how the public reacted to the whole thing.
It also dealt with the philosophical side of capitalism. The final major section
of the book, Managing a Dream Culture, displayed the managerial aspects of
capitalism and the poeple behind it. Then, the last pages illustrate how the
history in the book affected our country today, hence the its Legacies. It pretty
much sums up why what happened was important and the such.
"This book exhibits how this older culture was challenged and was
gradually superseded by the new culture," (p8). That pretty much sums up the
first section of the book, Strategies of Enticement. Within this chapter you see
the clear path towards capitalism being chosen. It starts out with what led up
to the idea of capitalism, including the merchant John Wanamaker and the
retail wars. It sets up the most vital history to understanding the whole
transmission into capitalism.
The next step to the up and rising consumer industry was the elaborate
and aesthetically pleasing forms of advertisement that began. It all began with
the advertising cards and eventually led to billboards and electrical advertising.
This is also one of the first times that Baum is discussed, this time concerning
his manual on "the arts of decorating and display" (p56). This was really the
chapter of advertisement\'s roots.
One of the last chapters of this section is about fashion and the effect it
had on the market. It also links the wants of the US consumers to the haves of
the European consumers, specifically France. The first of many fashion shows
begin arising here and the impact that foreign countries have on what is "in"
and "out" begin here. Later on, Oriental fashion shows up in a similar way.
The final chapter in this section goes into the detail of the first customer
services. It begins the linkage between capitalism and religion here due to the
fact that many of the ideals in customer services were similar to those ideals of
Christians. Despite the fact that "Americans had broken from their older
religious heritage, at their best they still retained the spirit of service" (p115).
And from there the hospitality in public places such as daycares, live music, etc
all began. It also touched on