Over the past two decades, Israel has been remaking itself in line with the commercial models of Western market societies. Nowhere is this trend more evident than in private consumption patterns. Most Israelis crave parity with Western lifestyles - private automobiles, mobile phones, spacious housing fashionably furnished, accessibility to shopping malls and leisure travel abroad. Alongside these new aspirations, internationally branded commodities and franchises such as McDonald's, Office Depot, Benetton, IKEA and Toys 'R' Us increasingly feature in the Israeli landscape, and advertising has emerged as a primary vehicle for persuasion, competition and cultural expression. This book is the first to explore fully the significance of these transformations. The authors show how different groups - kibbutzniks, Israeli Arabs, Ultra-Orthodox Jews, new immigrants and middle-class Israelis - alternately exhibit a suspicion towards and enthusiasm for the enhanced individual freedoms of a consumer market society. Lifestyle consumerism is recognized as an alien import, potentially disruptive of the ethos of communality, common destiny and national purpose. At the same time, because consumption helps unite diverse groups to the greater whole of the nation, the globe, and modernity, it conveys a sense of normalcy and affluence in a time of major social transition and political turmoil. Consumption and Market Society in Israel is not only innovative in its research, but it is a timely contribution to a hotly debated topic.
Yoram S. Carmeli is Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of Haifa. Kalman Applbaum is Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.