Konsum und politische Kommunikation
Vol 21 No 3 (2011)
Herausgegeben von Kirsten Bönker und Vera Caroline Sirnon
Konsum als politisches Motiv in Reiseberichten des 16. Jahrhunderts
Spaces of possibilities and limits of speaking – Consumption as a political motif of travel reports of the 16th century
In this essay French and Spanish travel reports from the 16th century are used as sources of history of consumption. The travel reports all dealt with a new continent named “America” which was equated with visions of a new society. The article identifies three patterns of interpretation which show different variations of acquirement. The first model is orientated on a Christian prototype of man, the native without needs. The second model depicts the organisation of complex Indian societies in Middle- and South-America. The last model contains an economic founded dream of a cultivated landscape. All models show an intention to verify traditional systems of social life in Europe and are by this means typically “political”.
Deutsche und niederländische Radfahrerverbände im Vergleich, 1900–1940
Consumers and national System-builder: Comparing German and Dutch cyclists‘ unions, 1900–1940
This article explores the variability and the limits of the political in regard to cyclists‘ unions in Germany and the Netherlands between 1900 and 1940. In both countries, cyclists formed national consumer organizations, mixing consumer demands with social and even political implications. The Dutch Cyclists‘ Union managed to establish herself as an eminent political actor and „system builder“ with lasting impact on traffic legislation and road construction. While liberals were loosing the political majority in Dutch parliament, the Cyclists‘ Union became a stronghold of Dutch liberalism outside the narrow confines of the old institutionalized political arena. In contrast, German cyclists‘ dreams of opening up social elites and fostering social and political change through the bicycle were shattered. The bicycle, which had started off as a luxury good in the 1890s and had become a common means of transport by the 1920s, was more suitable for political communications „from top to bottom“. Old liberal elites in the Netherlands were quite successful in making use of this consumer object in order to reformulate their existing claims to power and create new realms of the political. A transformation of social and political conditions, „from the bottom up“, as it was hoped for by part of the German cyclists‘ movement, however, turned out to be utopian.
As urban populations in Europe experienced unprecedented material want during the First World War and its aftermath, political communication increasingly centred on the interests of consumers. At issue was not only how to provide for their basic needs, but also, and more importantly, whether it was legitimate and feasible to represent their interests at an institutional level in order to counter-balance the power of producers. Ultimately, although the point of view of consumers promised to recast the relationship between the political and the economic, the impact at the institutional level turned out to be limited. The article examines this debate at the point of its greatest prominence during the formative years of the Weimar republic. Its main actors, issues and effects are then compared to parallel struggles for consumer rights in Great Britain and France. It will be argued that similarities outweigh national differences and that these similarities should be attributed to the pervasive effects of the First World War and to the difficulties inherent in representing consumer interests.
Planning and participation in the regulated consumer societies of Sweden and Norway, 1930-60.
In the 1930s, the regulation of consumption was integrated into the overarching policy of scientific management in the Scandinavian social democracies, which aimed at rationalising the whole fabric of socio-economic relations. As part of a programme of scientific reformism, the language of increased productivity through rationalisation was transferred from the industrial workplace to the home. However, there was no collective organisation of consumers corresponding to the trade unions of workers ready to negotiate these reforms. The tide was flowing in the opposite direction: Consumer organisations were losing territory to the state by the same movement as the housewife-as-consumer was gaining in visibility. Through an increasingly centralised home economics sector the consumer emerged as an ideal yet strangely silent character in the political communication of the Social Democratic regimes during the transition to affluence.
The Fat Body and his Consumption in the Focus of Science and Politics in GDR and FRG In modern society, speaking about the body includes speaking about virtues like responsibility, discipline, efficiency and rationality as foundations of western societies. Insofar, the fat body is a political problem. The paper reconstructs the history of overweight in the GDR and FRG, which both had to face the problem. It analyses the discourse in regard to its function as an indicator of political communication. Doing so, it works out, how overweight was rated on both sides of the wall and which alternative models of consumption were developed and realized.
Keeping an Eye on Consumption – Strategies of Visualization in Soviet and East German Journals (1953–1964)
Consumption played a crucial role in legitimising the socialist system and therefore it was an important topic in the state socialist press. This article presents a comparative analysis of socialist consumption discourses. It focuses on the period from 1953 to 1964. The study explores similarities and differences between visual representations of consumption in the Soviet journal Ogoniok and in its East German counterpart, the Neue Berliner Illustrierte (NBI). The first part of the article investigates affirmative and critical visualisations of consumption on the national level. The second part looks at the coverage of transnational relations in the realm of consumption. The study reveals significant differences between the two journals. They can mainly be explained by the fact that the public sphere of the GDR was more open to communication with the West than that of the USSR.