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In Susan Strasser’s saga of American trashmaking, Waste and Want, she chronicles how Americans have defined, produced, used, thought about, and talked about trash from the mid-seventeenth century into the late twentieth century. Strasser approaches her subject matter with the question of how a culture that gave rise to landfills and incinerators was able to supplant a culture grounded in reuse (as in the examples of the stewardship of objects and bricolage). Employing an engaging and accessible writing style, Strasser interweaves her text with primary sources such as household manuals, magazines, government documents, and advertisements; highlighting the mercurial relationship between American trashmaking and ideas about social class, American industry, and consumerism. By looking at how people have historically gone about reusing, recycling, and disposing of their waste, Strasser illuminates how the emergence of a mass consumer culture transformed the daily routines of life in the home as well as in the public and governmental spheres. She argues that “trashmaking both underscores and creates social differences based on economic status.” Waste and Want is is a sweeping history of American trashmaking as a social process. It is a history of sorting the dirty from the clean, the safe from the dangerous, the unruly from the refined, and the elite from the middling classes—and it raises important questions about the roots, motives, and implications of modern day ideals of disposal and reuse. 


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