Deindustrialization and Consumer Society. Manufacturers, Trade, and Consumer Culture

Employees (IfZ):  PD Dr. Christian Marx

What were the consequences of large portions of (West) German society increasingly consuming less expensive imported products instead of goods “Made in Germany” from the 1970s? Starting from this question, the subproject will focus on specific industries and mass consumer goods that were directly available to “common” consumers, and products from the textile and photographic industries, electronic entertainment, and household appliances in particular. Their product spectrum changed dramatically between 1970 and 2000, with few Western European manufacturers surviving the acceleration in structural change. At the same time, leisure time and consumption opportunities were expanding in nearly all industrialized societies. Asian producers mostly filled this gap, beginning with companies from Japan, later from the Southeast Asian “Tigers”, and most recently manufacturers from China and other Asian countries.

The project examines these processes of change from different perspectives: Firstly by asking about the strategies of economic policy actors, secondly by examining responses of German producers to increasing imports, thirdly by a rereading of the analyses of consumer research institutes, and fourthly by looking at the changes in the products on offer and “mail order” commerce. This multi-perspective approach takes into account political actors, manufacturers and consumers as well as retailers and products. In this way, a comprehensive picture emerges of the interdependent relationship between deindustrialization and consumption.

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