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Passionate about things: The Swedish Debate on Throwawayism (1960-1961)
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economic History.
2011 (English)In: Revue d'histoire Nordique, ISSN 1778-9605, no 12, 135-160 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article explores the notorious Swedish debate called “slit-och-släng” [wear and tear and throwaway] in 1960–61. This large-scale media debate on consumption and the throwaway mentality was triggered by a dispute between two leading media personalities specialised in consumer issues and engaged intellectuals, economists, designers, producers, consumer representatives as well as the general public. The analysis in this paper applies three overlapping historical contexts: modernity, morality and emotionality. First, I interpret the debate as a conflict between traditional and modern consumer attitudes. Second, I show that the debate, at first sight, can easily be placed within the tradition of a dichotomised normative criticism, whereby the rational and active consumer is endorsed and contrasted with the negative image of the emotionally-driven and manipulated victim of market forces (Slater 1997: p. 33). Third, I argue that the debate was a breaking point in the very same normative discourse. It signals a rupture in the persistent polarisation, by introducing emotions in a positive way – on both sides of the debate. Rather unexpectedly, the Swedish debate on throwawayism justified a passion for commodities. Consequently, the analysis sheds new light upon the prevalent interpretations of Swedish consumerism in terms of rationality, collectivism, state-controlled consumer education and consumer protection (e.g. Aléx 1994; 2003) by showing how leading consumer educators “got tired of” rationality.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Toulouse, France: Universite de Toulouse Le Mirail, 2011. no 12, 135-160 p.
Keyword [en]
mass-consumption, throwaway culture, throwawayism, morality, rationality, emotionality, consumer education, consumerism, consumer culture, critique of consumer culture, history, Sweden.
Keyword [fr]
consommation de masse, culture du “jetable”, moralité, rationalité, émotionnalité, éducation du consommateur, consumérisme, culture du consommateur, critique de la culture du consommateur, histoire, Suède
National Category
Social Sciences Humanities
Research subject
Economic History; History
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-166116OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-166116DiVA: diva2:475288
Available from: 2012-01-10 Created: 2012-01-10 Last updated: 2012-02-01Bibliographically approved

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Husz, Orsi
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