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Jewish Consumer Culture In Historical And Contemporary Perspective

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Chapter Summary

Idealizing women's roles in traditional life, Martin Buber contrasts these roles with what he calls - echoing Max Nordau's famous book - their contemporary de generation. The "regal beauty" of Jewish women in earlier times has become ostentatious materialism. Jews may not either own or control the world, but both their aggregate wealth and power exceed by orders of magnitude anything in prior Jewish history and are out of all proportion to any other ethnic or religious group in contemporary America. One could limit Jewish consumer culture to objects that have specific Jewish content or symbolic meaning, such as ritual objects. The history of Jewish sumptuary laws is good evidence that, even if the Jew as consumer is a twentieth-century discovery, the phenomenon of Jewish consumer culture goes back into the Middle Ages, and much earlier.

Keywords: contemporary America; Jewish consumer culture; Martin Buber; materialism



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