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

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

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.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Historical Research in Marketing
Volume7
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)476-485
Number of pages10
ISSN1755-750X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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