Why does shopping have such a powerful influence on our lives? As shoppers will attest, it provides a terrific balm for the soul. But shopping offers us an even greater bargain than that: as the public face of consumer society, it keeps the modern economy afloat, linking the family looking for jeans at Wal-Mart in California to factories in China and Bangladesh. As we push our wire carts around the supermarket or stroll through the mall, shopping provides a normal means of taking part in social life. Accessible, smart, and expansive, Point of Purchase shows the incredible impact shopping has had on American life, stretching from the mid-19th century to today's shopping trends from the internet to Zagat guides. Unlike many social critics, Zukin does not condemn Americans for being so consumer-minded. Rather, she explores why shopping has become so central to our lives: the rise of consumer culture, the never-ending quest for better value, and shopping's ability to help us improve our social status and attain new social identities. Point of Purchase presents shopping as the pursuit of the American dream, where low prices define our concept of democracy, brand names represent our search for a better life, and designer boutiques embody the promise of an ever-improving self.Zukin, Sharon is the author of 'Point of Purchase: How Shopping Changed American Culture' with ISBN 9780415945974 and ISBN 0415945976.