Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash

Front Cover
Henry Holt and Company, May 27, 2014 - History - 368 pages

An unprecedented look at that most commonplace act of everyday life--throwing things out--and how it has transformed American society.

Susan Strasser's pathbreaking histories of housework and the rise of the mass market have become classics in the literature of consumer culture. Here she turns to an essential but neglected part of that culture--the trash it produces--and finds in it an unexpected wealth of meaning.

Before the twentieth century, streets and bodies stank, but trash was nearly nonexistent. With goods and money scarce, almost everything was reused. Strasser paints a vivid picture of an America where scavenger pigs roamed the streets, swill children collected kitchen garbage, and itinerant peddlers traded manufactured goods for rags and bones. Over the last hundred years, however, Americans have become hooked on convenience, disposability, fashion, and constant technological change--the rise of mass consumption has led to waste on a previously unimaginable scale.

Lively and colorful, Waste and Want recaptures a hidden part of our social history, vividly illustrating that what counts as trash depends on who's counting, and that what we throw away defines us as much as what we keep.

 

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - setnahkt - LibraryThing

First off, despite claiming the be "A Social History of Trash", the book (despite of brief mention of the garbage-strewn streets of Knossos and Pompei) is just a history of American trash. Next ... Read full review

WASTE AND WANT: A Social History of Trash

User Review  - Kirkus

—By their trash shall you know them" is the theme of this research-driven exploration of the rubbish and refuse habits of more than two centuries of Americans. "Rubbish took on new meanings" in the ... Read full review

Contents

Toward a History of Trashmaking
3
The Stewardship of Objects 21
21
CHAPTER TWO Any Rags Any Bones
69
Trash and Reuse T ransformed
111
Having and Disposing in
161
Making D0 and Buying New in Hard Times
203
Use It Up Wear It Out Get in the Scrap
229
CHAPTER SEVEN Good Riddance
265
Notes
295
Acknowledgments
339
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2014)

Susan Strasser is the author of the award-winning Never Done: A History of American Housework and Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Making of the American Mass Market. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Nation. A professor of history at the University of Delaware, she lives near Washington, D.C.

Bibliographic information