Legal Texts as Cultural Narratives of Postwar Suburbia: Gender, Power, and Consumer Protection
REDEFINING SUBURBAN STUDIES: SEARCHING FOR NEW PARADIGMS, Daniel Rubey, ed., The National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, 2009
13 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2011
Date Written: 2009
This essay offers a cultural reading of the shift in the way the law imagined the consumer during the post-World War II period, a shift from the ideology of caveat emptor to the construction of the powerless consumer as a legal subject. It will argue that this shift-revealed in judicial opinions, litigants’ legal arguments, and influential legal commentaries - is rooted in cultural narratives that were informed by postwar suburban discussions around gender and loss of individual autonomy. These included both popular and scholarly literature on suburban conformity and gender roles (from William Whyte to David Riesman to Betty Friedan); critiques of advertising (notably Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders), which traced advertisers’ targeting of women consumers; and television programming (like the hugely popular Queen for a Day) that melded consumerist discourses, traditional gender ideologies, and cold war pedagogies about citizenship.
Keywords: law and narrative, cultural studies, consumerism, legal ideology
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