Observing Consumers

Market Surveys and the History of Consumption in Germany from the 1930s to the 1960s
By Christoph Conrad

Observing consumers : market surveys and history of consumption in Germany, from the 1930s to the 1960s.

This article presents a view of the consumer society as a « knowledge society » : a society in which applied knowledge is produced and constantly communicated, and a society in which the consumer is constructed as a specific social type and as a source of information. Based on survey data and publications from market research institutes in Germany from the early 1930s to the 1960s, the paper focuses on evidence of the construction and contention between male and female models of consumer behavior. After some theoretical remarks, the paper turns to examples from market research, especially that found in the Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung during the Third Reich. Involved in the emergence of market research were two relationships of exchange and transfer : on the one hand, the appropriation or rejection of American models, and, on the other hand, the difficult dialogue between academic economics and applied marketing.

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