Faith, Free Choice and the FBI: How Consumer Research Once Scared the American Establishment

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    Purpose: - This paper aims to review the life and work of one of America’s earliest social researchers, Robert Staughton Lynd (1892-1970). In doing so, it also re-introduces Lynd’s seminal Middletown studies to a wider audience within academic consumer research.
    Design/methodology/approach: – Using the historical-biographical method, light is shed on the developments that led to the publication of the Middletown studies and on the way these studies were received by various audiences.
    Findings: – The critical impetus of interwar social researcher Lynd was to some extent an outcome of his own entanglement with professional marketing and advertising, and of his Protestant religiosity. This insight has important bearings for critical consumer research as well as consumer culture theory today.
    Research limitations/implications: – Market and consumer research comes in many forms. Throughout its history, market and consumer research benefitted from and overlapped with the rise of social research. To fully understand the social and political implications of their work, market and consumer researchers need to have firm knowledge of this interaction with the social sciences and with religious movements in a secular society.
    Originality/value: – Very little is known about the interaction between Robert Lynd’s social research and the sphere of market and consumer research. This interaction is studied by drawing on the secondary literature and on archival sources.
    TidsskriftJournal of Historical Research in Marketing
    Udgave nummer4
    Sider (fra-til)476-485
    Antal sider10
    StatusUdgivet - 2015


    • Consumer research
    • Consumer rights
    • Protestantism
    • Middletown studies
    • Robert Staughton Lynd
    • Social surveys