Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
The flip side of America?s worship of novelty is its addiction to waste, a linkage illuminated in this fascinating historical study. Historian Slade surveys the development of disposability as a consumer convenience, design feature, economic stimulus and social problem, from General Motors? 1923 introduction of annual model changes that prodded consumers to trade in perfectly good cars for more stylish updates, to the modern cell-phone industry, where fashion-driven ?psychological obsolescence? compounds warp-speed technological obsolescence to dramatically reduce product life-cycles. He also explores the debate over ?planned obsolescence??decried by social critics as an unethical affront to values of thrift and craftsmanship, but defended as a Darwinian spur to innovation by business intellectuals who further argued that ?wearing things out does not produce prosperity, but buying things does.? Slade?s even-handed analysis acknowledges both manufacturers? manipulative marketing ploys and consumers? ingrained love of the new as motors of obsolescence, which he considers an inescapable feature of a society so focused on progress and change. His episodic treatment sometimes meanders into too-obscure byways, and his alarm at the prospect of thrown-away electronic gadgets overflowing landfills and poisoning the water supply seems overblown. But Slade?s lively, insightful look at a pervasive aspect of America?s economy and culture make this book a keeper. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.