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Drömmars värde: Varuhus och lotteri i svensk konsumtionskultur 1897-1939
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economic History.
2004 (Swedish)Book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The dissertation explores ideas about consumption in general and about consumer dreams in particular in early twentieth century Sweden. This is done in an analysis of two specific consumer environments –- the department store and the lottery. Both have often been explicitly related to dreams by contemporary observers as well as modern-day researchers. My case studies concern Sweden’s first real department store –- Nordiska Kompaniet (NK) in Stockholm –- in the period 1902 to 1939, and Swedish lotteries in the period 1897 to 1939.

The dissertation consists of four parts. The first part presents the starting points of the investigations. Previous research has described the consumer culture of this period either as conveying a normative message about rational thinking or as imbued with a new hedonism. Consequently, I apply the notions of rationality, irrationality, hedonism, and asceticism as analytical concepts. I analyse ideas as expressed in words, in actions and in the shaping of institutions. I investigate the material in both empirical substudies from the perspective of three basic issues. Firstly, I examine the perception of old and new; secondly, the role of pecuniary values and ideal values; thirdly, the power relationships reflected and created by the institutions of the department store and the lottery.

Part Two is a study of the department store NK. The empirical chapters discuss issues about the ‘enchantment’ of rationality and modernity within the department store, the attempted reconciliation of commerce and (high) culture, and how gender and class were defined by the shaping of the store space and by the interactions between sales staff and customers. In a concluding chapter I point out the cultural implications of the department store’s business principle of providing a complete range of all possible consumer goods.

Part Three investigates the issue of Swedish lotteries in the early twentieth century. I focus on the political and press debates about a proposed state lottery but I also illuminate the institutional forms of lotteries and some aspects of gambling practices. In the empirical chapters of this case study I explore how the perception of the lottery as an antiquated phenomenon shifted to the exact opposite; I examine the conflict between individual dreams and collective future planning as expressed in the political debate; and I discuss how the lottery was related to the work ethic in the normative discourse and in the practice of gambling. I also study how the ‘good public causes’ which Swedish lotteries financed were used by contemporaries to provide moral legitimacy to the lottery. To sum up, I argue that the various and shifting social meanings of money should be considered as a key to understanding both individual and collective attitudes to dreams in the lottery issue.

Part Four summarises the results and discusses the two case studies together. Rational, irrational, hedonistic and ascetic features were brought together in the ideas about consumption and in the practice of consuming. I isolate three mechanisms that were used in the period to reconcile apparently contradictory notions and actual opposites. I call these mechanisms redefinition, value equalising and stereotyping.

In summary, the dissertation illuminates the interpretation of consumer dreams by placing them in a broader context. It shows how dreams were related to the view of modernity and to the power relationships in society and how they were ascribed ideal and pecuniary values.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Hedemora: Gidlunds förlag, 2004. , 415 p.
Keyword [en]
consumption, consumer culture, consumer dreams, department store, shopping, consumer credit, shoplifting, lottery, gambling, state lottery, premium bonds, rationality, irrationality, hedonism, asceticism, money, morality, values, modernity, gender, class
National Category
Humanities History
Research subject
History; Economic History
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-168402ISBN: ISBN 91-7844-666-XOAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-168402DiVA: diva2:496479
Available from: 2012-02-09 Created: 2012-02-09 Last updated: 2014-03-09

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