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I strongly disagree with Galbraith's argument essentially about "the end of quality". We did not reach an absolute zenith of product quality in the 50s.

What did change was the coverage of mass media.

Instead of relying on long and expensive genuine user feedback loops to generate positive buzz around a product, advertising manufactures that buzz directly. This is why is it everywhere, and influencers are just the latest innovation. Not because product quality/QoL reached a high point.

> I strongly disagree with Galbraith's argument essentially about "the end of quality". We did not reach a zenith of product quality in the 50s.

As someone who actively seeks tools, furniture and other consumer products from that period, I tend to disagree.

Let's take furniture. Mine was made during this period by Stickley in New York state. One cannot find commensurate quality today unless you wish to commission handmade pieces.

We have devolved to the point of disposable $5 extruded-plastic chairs, which may provide service for a time, knowing full well that the inevitable trip to the landfill is just around the corner. I reckon we're a ways past said zenith.

I agree with you -- let me rephrase -- we may have hit a relative peak in quality in the 1950s, but not anything resembling an absolute limit that caused advertising.

The subsequent decline in product quality was caused by advertising displacing genuine user feedback in creating demand for products, among other things (planned obsolescence).

You no longer needed to create a great product that people would buy and recommend because it is great. Simply skip the loop and go straight from A to B via advertising (fake buzz).

The Galbraith argument that advertising was a necessary technology that benefits consumers is a Big Lie. Advertising benefits large producers, while consumers suffer from losing their voice and declining product quality.

Yes, plastics hadn't been invented yet and there were still enough forests around to deforest that furniture could economically be made out of large chunks of solid wood. Nowadays, forestry requirements in most developed countries have (understandably) become tighter and it makes more sense to use less wood to make engineered wood products to build furniture than solid wood. Engineered wood products last a long time but still less than solid wood.

Also, when new, a lot of old furniture was quite expensive and families would save up for pieces. We get the benefit of that being used and transmitted now (though obviously particularly striking pieces will not have a reduction in value.)

While I certainly appreciate older, sturdy furniture (especially solid wood furniture as someone with some cabinetry background), I prefer modern lightweight materials, even if they last less long. They still last most of my lifetime which is enough for me. Marketing is not the issue, sustainable materials usage is.

This seems like survivor bias. The 1950s furniture and tools that still exist are obviously well-made and have been considered worth preserving by decades of people. Karrot_Kream has good points about materials too.

They survived because of their quality, nothing today stands up to the same level of quality.

The things today won't survive, that's the point.

Some (most) things from today won't survive, just like some (most) things from the 1950s didn't survive. I own some recent furniture and tools that could comfortably survive 70 years; they are at just as high quality, if not better. E.g. I have some metal-framed chairs that could last centuries if they were re-covered every few decades.

Our house was made in the 1950s using California redwood. Design aside, this product quality is impossible today; you simply cannot find old-growth redwood to construct sufficient housing. I'm not even sure it was justifiable to utilize those materials during that era either -- hence the mass exploitation of global resources that is precipitating ecological collapse today.

There's clearly a cost-benefit spectrum between artisanal craftsmanship & throwaway consumerism. Balance is probably the best approach. It's time for the pendulum to swing back toward fewer, better items with a longer product life.

If you want to pay a fortune now, like your grandparents did then, you can get just as good and better stuff made now.

> What did change was the coverage of mass media

That and the shift toward psychological advertising in the wake of Bernays. Closing the quality/opinion loop only makes sense if quality is really a concern. Post-Bernays the gig switched to manufacturing desire by attacking the self-esteem of the "consumer". The product itself became largely irrelevant.

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