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Material World: A Global Family Portrait (Sierra Club Books Publication) [Paperback]

P Menzel
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
RRP: £15.87
Price: £13.83 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Printing edition (2 Sep 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871564300
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871564306
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 1.5 x 30.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 109,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


We are witnessing the emergence of a unified world economy, as exemplified by NAFTA and GATT, that will, in theory, make goods available at cheaper prices, create new jobs throughout the world, raise standards of living, and benefit the average family. However, population growth and resource exploitation will also affect these potential benefits as patterns of consumption change. In stunning photographs and text, "Material World" demonstrates the present context for the emerging global economy, what it means to be 'statistically average', by displaying families in more than thirty nations outside their homes - with all their possessions in view. Among the 350 stunning images are those of a family in lush Samoa juxtaposed with a Kuwaiti family and the two Mercedes-Benzes parked outside their desert home; a family in Iceland posing with their treasured string instruments while a family in Sarajevo huddles outside their bullet-ridden apartment.This text describes what it means to be 'average' in each of thirty very dissimilar cultures and the impact of each way of life on the local environment.

Statistical information about each country accompanies the photo-essays so that readers can easily compare one culture with another. "Material World" is a fascinating portrait of multicultural diversity and a preview of emerging issues raised by the impact of the global economy on the cultural heritage of the human community.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
At first glance this seems a bizarre book, loads of families with all their junk strewn out on the street and lots of pictures of them doing every day activities. I am a member of the average family of Great Britain, one of the countries featured in this book. I was 15 when the photos were taken and when the interviews, videos and documentaries were undertaken. At the time I don't think I realised the scale of the project or the impact it would have on people's conversations. When it was first published in a newspaper in Britain, our family was pictured and interviewed alongside the family from Burma; there could not be more of a contrast. Over the years it has made me realise, more and more as I read the book and talk about it, just how lucky we are in the West. I was looking at the book this morning and it dawned on me just how many of the possessions in the book have now been replaced in my parents house, bed, sofas, fridge. And we are so lucky to have the means to replace things like that with little effect on our overall standard of living and I think that the book reflects this, especially for countries such as America and Britain. I know some people who have got hold of the book, then realised that I am in it and it has provoked some really interesting conversations and discussions. I also know people who have used the book in assemblies in schools, in sermons in church and in RE lessons. The book is certainly inspiring, however the recent idea of doing a Material World Revisited, 10 years down the line is not a prospect I relish that much! Get the book though, it is fantastic bedtime reading and also good if you have boring visitor over that you do't want to entertain, give them the book and they'll be fascinated!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking; engrossing 26 Jan 1998
By A Customer
Every household should have a copy of this book. The photographs show how diverse the world is; how poor most of the world is; how vulnerable all humans are. It has provided for some good discussion with my children, and it made me reflect on what material goods I have and on what I value.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars great concept, disappointing execution 16 Feb 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The concept behind this book is so great I've bought it twice... but both times I've got rid of it quickly in disappointment. The idea is that Menzel gets families around the world to put all their worldly goods out in front of their home and photographs them, with some text tacked on about their life. For voyeurs, those of us who'd like to travel more than we can, those of us who have travelled a lot and would like to know more about the people we've seen, green activists and people thinking about reducing their clutter or pursuing minimalism -- potentially we should all be enthralled, right? But the photos are not as informative or striking as you'd hope, partly because Menzel doesn't include everything people own -- notably, he excludes their clothes. Admittedly, some of the Third-World families probably just don't have many things to wear, but think about this -- for most Americans, and many Europeans, clothes are the single largest category of things you own, and the single most absurdly bloated collection, too. So the impact of this documentary is sadly muted. Also the pictures just aren't detailed or numerous enough. I think Menzel should do a new version, as he did with his books about diet (which I do recommend).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insight into cultures and lives accross the globe 18 April 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Interesting book looking at the lives and posessions of people around the world. Highlights cultural interests and differences in ways of life. Easy to read and great photos. Recommended for interest and great coffee table book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that everyone needs to return to 18 Oct 2011
I was given this book by my husband when it was first published in the '90's and the disparity it portrayed really shocked me. Then my children were born, and as they have been growing up, we have pulled it out from time to time to show them just how lucky they are. We have referred to it when they make their requests for the latest video gaming systems and mobile phones, and have opened it up when discussing what true happiness means... I have just returned from my first business trip to India, where I was put up in 5-star hotels, but drove by cardboard shanty towns on my way to my meetings, on motorways that were full of carts and horses, pedestrians, scooters with entire families as passengers, and taxis jammed with 8 or 9 people. When I got home, I pulled this book out again to show my colleagues who were travelling with me and with whom I had some lengthy discussions about the privilege we Westerners enjoy, and I'm going to talk to my children's school teachers about using it as a tool in some of their global citizenship discussions. Everyone should read this book.
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