Selling Out or Buying In?: Debating Consumerism in Vancouver and Victoria, 1945-1985
Until the late 1950s residents of Vancouver and Victoria negotiated a shopping landscape that would be unrecognizable to today’s consumers: most stores were closed for at least half the day on Wednesdays, prevented from opening during the evenings, and were banned from operating on Sundays. Since that decade, however, British Columbians, and Canadians generally, have made significant strides in gaining greater and easier access to consumer goods.
Selling Out or Buying In? is the first work to illuminate the process by which consumers’ access to goods and services was liberalized and deregulated in Canada in the second half of the twentieth century. Michael Dawson’s engagingly written and detailed exploration of the debates amongst everyday citizens and politicians regarding the pros and cons of expanding shopping opportunities, challenges the assumption of inevitability surrounding Canada’s emergence as a consumer society. The expansion of store hours was a highly contested and contingent development that pitted employees, owners and regulators against one another. Dawson’s nuanced analysis of archival and newspaper sources reveals the strains that modern capitalism imparted upon the accepted and established rhythms of daily life.
- World Rights
- Page Count: 224 pages
- Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.5in x 9.0in
"Dawson is optimistic about our own agency to break out of the prison house of consumerism..."
Dr. Matthew J. Bellamy
BC Studies, online
"This well-researched engaging monograph uncovers the complex debates over store-hour restrictions that shaped the retail landscape of Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, in the post-Second World War period."
Vicki Howard, University of Essex
Histoire Sociale/Social History, vol 52 no 105, May '19
"As Selling Out or Buying In? convincingly argues, there is nothing natural or inevitable about contemporary Canada’s ‘wide-open’ around-the-clock shopping hours. In historicizing this phenomenon, Michael Dawson sheds light on the circuitous paths that have led to the current shopping context, questioning the assumption that it results from a combination of the ‘insatiable demand of consumers’ and the ‘entrepreneurial initiative of retailers.’ In the process, he also reveals the wide-ranging political, social, cultural, ideological, and religious tensions that simmered on the surface of these debates and that together reveal the ‘contingent and contested nature of consumerism’ in the country."
Nicolas Kenny , Department of History, Simon Fraser University
"Situating a series of historical episodes in context, Selling Out or Buying In? augments earlier studies of consumerism that defined people as consumers in both cultural and economic terms. Dawson’s work also takes another set of variables into consideration: the conditions under which consumers could expect to purchase goods, the implications of those conditions for workers and days of rest, and the slippery ideas of free enterprise and democracy, to name a handful."
Len Kuffert, Department of History, University of Manitoba
Author InformationMichael Dawson is Professor of History and Associate Vice-President (Research) at St. Thomas University.
Table of contents
Introduction Santa’s Lament
Chapter 1 Conflict: Restricting & Liberalizing Store Hours
Chapter 2 Community: Tourism, Leisure, and the Quest for Civic Prosperity
Chapter 3 Leverage: The Rhetoric and Reality of Chain Store Dominance
Chapter 4 Morality: Women, Families & Consumer Convenience
Chapter 5 Regulation: Evasion and Enforcement
Chapter 6 Ideology: The Cold War and the Public Sphere
Chapter 7 Religion: Sunday Shopping’s Multiple Battlegrounds
PrizesThe CHA Best Political History Book Prize awarded by the Canadian Historical Association - Winner in 2019
Subjects and Courses