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The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting, by Rachel Shteir

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

Stealing is as old as human culture, and it even exists in the animal world. So it’s no surprise that with the rise of capitalism and department stores in particular, we witness a specific type of stealing: shoplifting. I’m partway through a fascinating new book on shoplifting. It covers the history of shoplifting, as well as the various theories that have sprung up to explain it. Shoplifting can’t only be about poverty – think of that infamous Winona Ryder! - but it’s not just about greed or temptation, either. Is shoplifting an uncontrollable impulse? Can it be said that it’s a political act or statement? What are its real costs to business owners and consumers?

Most fascinating to me is the way that shoplifters describe their own behavior. Some are remorseless; others are ashamed. Some shoplifters do it to get a cheap (make that free) high, while others enjoy the feeling of superiority that results when they’ve conned a “stupid salesman”. Shoplifting is committed by both men and women, old and young, and by people of every ethnicity and class – and it affects everyone in the marketplace.

Find out more by reading this interesting, fast-paced read. The Steal is part history, part anthropology, and totally fascinating!

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