Supermarkets are a mundane feature in the landscape, but as Tracey
Deutsch reveals, they represent a major transformation in the ways
that Americans feed themselves. In her examination of the history
of food distribution in the United States, Deutsch demonstrates the
important roles that gender, business, class, and the state played
in the evolution of American grocery stores.
Deutsch's analysis reframes shopping as labor and embeds
consumption in the structures of capitalism. The supermarket, that
icon of postwar American life, emerged not from straightforward
consumer demand for low prices, Deutsch argues, but through
government regulations, women customers' demands, and retailers'
concerns with financial success and control of the "shop floor."
From small neighborhood stores to huge corporate chains of
supermarkets, Deutsch traces the charged story of the origins of
contemporary food distribution, treating topics as varied as
everyday food purchases, the sales tax, postwar celebrations and
critiques of mass consumption, and 1960s and 1970s urban
insurrections. Demonstrating connections between women's work and
the history of capitalism, Deutsch locates the origins of
supermarkets in the politics of twentieth-century consumption.