Labour Studies Index

A Labour Force for the Consumer Century: Commodification in Canada's Largest Department Stores, 1890 to 1940

Document type Article
Author Belisle, Donica
Journal Labour / Le Travail
Volume 58
Date 2006 Fall
ISSN 0700-3862
Pages 107-144


Between 1890 and 1940 Canada's three largest department stores -- Eaton's Simpson's, and the Hudson's Bay Company -- developed a multifacted system of employee commodification. Not only did they encourage their employees to become avid consumers, so did they market their employees' activities, interests, and bodies. They undertook these commodiyfing gestures in an attempt to extract value from their workforces. Investigating the rise and operation of commodification at these major retailers, this paper offers new insights into corporate management systems, demonstrates that commodification had negative consequences for employees, and provides fresh perspectives on 20th-century consumer capitalism. (English)