A serious recalibration of our consumerist lifestyle is in order according to Mulder in this valiant attempt to historically situate an economic practice run amok.
What Mulder would really like to experience is a fundamental change in how we go about obtaining the things we need, which—as one glaring example of a malfunctioning system—many of us around the globe don’t have. Her coverage of the mechanics of consumerism, such as currency, advertising, and planned obsolescence, are gripping enough to stick in readers’ minds, but historical explanations—for example, the causes of the Great Depression—are way too shallow to help readers understand the basic insecurities of the system. The book is punctuated by boxes of facts and vignettes of activities Mulder has engaged in that look to a more dignified future. These include the “Repair Cafe,” where local handy folk gather at some central location to repair broken goods, or the “Kitchen Library,” which lends out things like blenders or a set of sharp knives. Mulder also addresses issues of vast importance: child labor laws, the microloan phenomenon, and the return of barter. Two particularly wonderful instances stand out: the first is “Buy Nothing Day,” observed annually in November, and the other is an emphasis on the value of community.
Ambitious in scope and mission but uneven in execution; nevertheless, valuable in its illustration of alternative models of commerce. (Nonfiction. 8-12)