“Hedonists without heart?”
On the Origins of Consumer Capitalism in America

How did we become consumers trapped in an ever-spinning circle of production and consumption, not only of goods but even of events, experiences, and emotions? How is it that even non-economic spheres and aspects of life — love, friendship, education, health, emotion, play — have become increasingly captured by the logic of consumer capitalism? How did we become the historically-specific character who satisfies desires through consumer goods, defining and molding his ever-changing, fluid identity through acts of consumption?

These questions motivated research by Professor Cesare Silla on the genesis of consumer capitalism in America between 1880 and 1930. Please join us for a talk about his work on this topic.

Professor Silla is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Urbino “Carlo Bo.” He also teaches Principles of Sociology at Catholic University of Milan. His publications include The Rise of Consumer Capitalism in America, 1880 – 1930 (Routledge, London-New York, 2018). He is currently a Visiting Researcher at the Catholic University of America in the Department of Sociology, working on collaborative projects with IHE Fellow Brandon Vaidyanathan.

Focusing on the rise of urban consumption and the role played by a few marketing tools like store window display and print advertising, the aim is to show how historically-oriented sociology is capable of shedding light upon a few neglected distant causes of contemporary consumerism and materialism.