*Empire of Things*

by on March 21, 2016 at 1:56 pm in Books, Economics, History | Permalink

The author is Frank Trentmann and the very apt subtitle is How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First.  I have only browsed this, but it appears both readable and well informed.  It is a “big book” with 690 pp. of core text, bringing together many ideas from history and the social sciences yet in narrative form.

1 Eugene March 21, 2016 at 2:28 pm

Why all these book promo’s of books Tyler has only scanned or browsed?

2 Dmitri Helios March 21, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Don’t you know, Tyler has to appear Very Well Read? What, you actually expect him to “read” books like us nonsavants do ?

3 anon March 21, 2016 at 7:10 pm

To be honest, Tyler’s browse-review added more knowledge to the Internet than these comments.

4 Eugene March 21, 2016 at 2:31 pm

To answer my own question, I guess there’s some benefit to being informed there’s a book out there that might be of interest to you.

5 Lord Action March 21, 2016 at 2:33 pm

They’re also a small and completely reasonable way to monetize the blog.

6 Ray Lopez March 21, 2016 at 10:54 pm

On how much money TC gets from this blog –and it’s money well deserved IMO, he’s great–I estimate from this blog post (http://chrisblattman.com/2014/12/31/2014-annual-report/) if Chris Blattman gets $6k a year from Amazon and has one-seventh the traffic (Alexa) that TC’s site has, then TC is getting $42 k/yr. I myself have bought many books from Amazon on TC’s recommendation. So far I’ve not been disappointed though I’m finding Alice Goffman’s book “On the Run” a bit boring (but will finish it).

BTW, check out today’s Blattman’s post on Karl Marx:

Via Ken Opalo and Stéphane Helleringer this reportedly from a Prussian spy who visited Karl Marx in the 1850s:
In private life he is an extremely disorderly, cynical human being, and a bad host. He leads the existence of a real bohemian intellectual. Washing, grooming and changing his linen are things he does rarely, and he likes to get drunk. Though he is often idle for days on end, he will work day and night with tireless endurance when he has a great deal of work to do. He has no fixed times for going to sleep and waking up. He often stays up all night, and then lies down fully clothed on the sofa at midday and sleeps till evening, untroubled by the comings and goings of the whole world.

7 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 12:13 am

There’s a problem with the linking through Amazon. If you want to buy through the national version (so you don’t have to pay for delivery from the US) you can’t just click “Go to Canadian/UK/Frace… site” or something. You have to manually enter the title into the national website and the advertising revenue is lost.

Amazon wouldn’t have much incentive to fix this, because they still get the sale and don’t have to pay a commission.

8 Thor March 22, 2016 at 7:37 pm

This is hardly an insuperably problem.

Also: when I am directed to Amazon (US), via a link, I am immediately met by the question: “Do you want to use Amazon.ca?” and a link to Amazon.ca.

9 Thor March 22, 2016 at 7:40 pm

I meant insuperable.

Also: Amazon.ca often has access to the Brit edition of books, and they often appear sooner than the US editions. For example, re: the book in question (Empire of Things), I don’t have to wait for the March release of the US edition, but I can buy the Feb release (UK edition) now, from Amazon.ca

10 Lord Action March 22, 2016 at 11:13 am

I try to never begrudge someone earning a dollar.

In this case, the guy is a professor. I’d be surprised if he makes $300k a year. Getting a little extra spending money with links and product reviews is completely reasonable.

11 uair01 March 22, 2016 at 5:59 pm

Sounds plausible. Similar comments on Marx – but IIRC made by a UK secret agent – can be found in Sylvia Nasar: Grand Pursuit. I remember the description of “dust everywhere”.

12 Thor March 22, 2016 at 7:35 pm

Marx treated friend and foe abysmally, and that includes his long suffering wife, who was additionally treated as his personal servant.

13 MKBARCH March 21, 2016 at 3:20 pm

Looks like the book covers roughly the same period as this one by Jacques Barzun:


14 Sam Haysom March 21, 2016 at 4:30 pm

Good title?

15 Ray Lopez March 21, 2016 at 11:00 pm

Another book that’s more about how we are today vs yesterday (which might be a good companion to this book TC recommends) is this snapshot in time:

The Birth Of The Modern: World Society 1815-1830 by Paul Johnson

You’ll find ‘what’s old is new’ including “gay rights” (or gay awareness, Johnson covers it).

And a book about today’s election (was in the same page as Johnson’s book, I’ve not read it):

The Birth of Modern Politics: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Election of 1828 (Pivotal Moments in American History) – (Trump = Jackson, anti-establishment…and arguably will make as ‘bad’ a president as Jackson, who was bad-ass, with the Indian relocations, crushing First Bank of the US, etc)

16 Ray Lopez March 21, 2016 at 11:02 pm

BTW, forgot to add Jackson’s election resulted in the formation of a new party, today’s Democratic Party, so arguably it was more traumatic than Trump today, which might result in a new Republican party in spirit, but not in name.

17 jorod March 22, 2016 at 12:54 am

We were taught to be consumers by our schools and parents who don’t know any better. Schools don’t teach business law anymore or bookkeeping or accounting. Or how the stock market works. We are trained to be consumers not investors.

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