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Other titles in the Historical Studies of Urban America series:
Building a Market: The Rise of the Home Improvement Industry, 1914-1960 (Historical Studies of Urban America)by Richard Harris
Synopses & Reviews
Is there anything more American than the ideal of homeownership? In this groundbreaking work of transnational history, Nancy H. Kwak reveals how the concept of homeownership became one of Americaandrsquo;s major exports and defining characteristics around the world. In the aftermath of World War II, American advisers urged countries to pursue greater access to homeownership, arguing it would give families a literal stake in their nations, jumpstart a productive home-building industry, fuel economic growth, and raise the standard of living in their countries, helping to ward off the specter of communism.
A World of Homeowners charts the emergence of democratic homeownership in the postwar landscape and booming economy; its evolution as a tool of foreign policy and a vehicle for international investment in the 1950s, andrsquo;60s, and andrsquo;70s; and the growth of lower-income homeownership programs in the United States from the 1960s to today. Kwak unravels all these threads, detailing the complex stories and policy struggles that emerged from a particularly American vision for global democracy and capitalism. Ultimately, she argues, the question of who should own homes whereandmdash;and howandmdash;is intertwined with the most difficult questions about economy, government, and society.
What is more American than the ideal of homeownership? In this ambitious and groundbreaking work of transnational history, Nancy Kwak reveals how the concept of homeownership became one of Americaand#8217;s major exportsand#151;and defining characteristicsand#151;around the world. Kwak charts the emergence of democratic homeownership in the glow of the postwar landscape and booming economy; its evolution as a tool of foreign policy and as a vehicle for international investment during the 1950s, and#8217;60s, and and#8217;70s; and finally, the application of lessons learned to lower-income homeownership programs in the United States from the 1960s to today. Over that period, Americans leaders, institutions, and policy experts urged leaders in China, Taiwan, Burma, South Korea, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, and countless other countries to embrace the belief that more accessible, mortgage-driven homeownership could simultaneously strengthen democracy and capitalism. This idea took shape differently in all those countriesand#151;even as it failed to be honored in poorer and nonwhite areas of America itself.
Each year, North Americans spend as much money fixing up their homes as they do buying new ones. This obsession with improving our dwellings has given rise to a multibillion-dollar industry that includes countless books, consumer magazines, a cable television network, and thousands of home improvement stores.
Building a Market charts the rise of the home improvement industry in the United States and Canada from the end of World War I into the late 1950s. Drawing on the insights of business, social, and urban historians, and making use of a wide range of documentary sources, Richard Harris shows how the middle-class preference for home ownership first emerged in the 1920sandmdash;and how manufacturers, retailers, and the federal government combined to establish the massive home improvement market and a pervasive culture of Do-It-Yourself.and#160;
Deeply insightful, Building a Market is the carefully crafted history of the emergence and evolution of a home improvement revolution that changed not just American culture but the American landscape as well.
About the Author
Richard Harris is professor of geography at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
ONE / Introduction
PART I:and#160; ORIGINS
TWO / The Foundation of Home Ownership
THREE / An Industry Unready to Improve
FOUR / The Realm of the Retailer
FIVE / The Birth of the Home Improvement Store
PART II:and#160; CRISIS, 1927and#8211;1945
SIX / A Perfect Storm for the Building Industry
SEVEN / Manufacturers Save the Retailer
EIGHT / The State Makes Credit
PART III:and#160; RESOLUTION, 1945and#8211;1960
NINE / Mr. and Mrs. Builder
TEN / Help for the Amateur
ELEVEN / The Improvement Business Coalesces
TWELVE / A Zelig of the American Cultural Economy
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