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Shopping For American Culture Essay

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When James J. Farrell, professor of history, American studies, and American conversations at St. Olaf College wrote his article “Shopping for American Culture,” there were more malls than high schools within the United States. Malls were also generating more than 46.6 billion dollars in sales tax, which is “almost half of all state tax revenue.”1 Farrell recognizes these statements in the introduction of his article. In fact, he uses these statistics and determines that because of the population going to malls, shopping centers accurately reflect American culture.
James Farrell suggests that to truly understand Americans and their culture, one must go to the places in which Americans congregate (malls). He supports the idea that shopping, even if money is not spent, is therapeutic and “fun” (Farrell 250). At the same time, however, he also admits that consumption is planned and manipulated to create the most income. To do this, retailers enforce classic American values that encourage capitalism and consumerism. Finally, Farrell submits that individual stores within the mall tell an exciting and different story. However, Farrell does not admit that, while the malls of America do demonstrate the capitalist nature of America, they are not flawless descriptions of American culture as not everyone enjoys the mall and the people that go to the mall are not going to analyze the structure at the mall.
For example, Farrell claims that everyone enjoys going to the mall. “Yet we also go to buy more important things--an identity, a secure sense of self, a set of social relationships, a deeper sense of community, an expression of who we are and who we would like to be” (Farrell 252). This assertion is based on the assumption that everybod...


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...d whites, to gay people and their heterosexual friends, to teenagers and senior citizens. The mall looks and feels different to poor people than it does to the affluent” (Farrell 252). If Farrell were to include more evidence, his article would be even more believable.


Works Cited

Kowinski, William. “Mallaise: How to Know if You Have It.” Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum. Eds. Laurence Behrens, Leonard J. Rosen. New York: Pearsman Longman, 2007. 248-255. Print. 325.

Lewis, George. “Community Through Exclusion and Illusion.” Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum. Eds. Laurence Behrens, Leonard J. Rosen. New York: Pearsman Longman, 2007. 248-255. Print. 312.

Farrell, James J. “Shopping for American Culture.” Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum. Eds. Laurence Behrens, Leonard J. Rosen. New York: Pearsman Longman, 2007. 248-255. Print. 248-249.


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