TEST AND PROTEST: The Influence of Consumers Union by Norman Isaac Silber

TEST AND PROTEST: The Influence of Consumers Union

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It has the earmarks of a thesis, and a brief text at an outsize price; but in paperback at least, this study of Consumers Union--via its influence in three selected areas (one of the thesis earmarks)--gives good, long-lasting value. Silber has been engaged in setting up a consumer archive at CU headquarters, so on each point his sources constitute an authoritative bibliography. He has built his text around a current social-science concern (another thesis earmark): how ""reformers appropriated the logic of science and relied on popular faith in scientific evidence to promote their own vision of social progress."" Students and scholars can therefore turn to him for theoretical amplification. He has included a compact history of CU as an organization, noting key staff changes and doctrinal splits, usable by local consumer activists. His three case studies--on cigarettes and the discouragement of smoking, autos and the movement for auto safety, strontium 90 in milk and the fallout problem--each comprise a self-contained account of a major area of public interest. On the docket: early antismoking agitation (discredited by the failure of Prohibition); the shift in emphasis, re auto safety, from driver performance to auto performance (spurred at CU, as was much else, by Stuart Chase); and, significantly, CU's limitations in the case of a situation like fallout. ""Consumers Union institutionalized its method,"" Silber concludes fairly, and thus gave credence to objective testing; but its work also implied, conventionally, ""that the quality of life itself would be better if the quality of goods improved."" The facts are fresh and illuminating, and the issues are clearly set forth.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1983
Publisher: Holmes & Meier