Vance Packard (May 22, 1914 - December 12, 1996) was an American journalist, social critic, and author. His million-selling book The Hidden Persuaders, about media manipulation of the populace in the 1950s was a forerunner of pop sociology: science-based thinking without the weight of detail or eloquence, geared for sale to the mass market.
Packard's work, though it sold well, was criticized as poorly thought out, light on facts, high on supposition, and frivolous for his serious topics. In truth, much of the emerging work of the time was frivolous by 21st century standards, as publishers produced works by sociologists and others of less than the highest level. The differences between such books and current publications are indicative of the development of thought at the time. These books did, however, deal thoughtfully with some important issues, such as class divisions.
One thing the critics could not argue with, however, was the success of "pop science" books, and their value in bridging a gap between the highly educated classes and the less educated ones.
1914 Born in Granville Summit, Pennsylvania to parents Philip J. Packard and Mabel Case Packard
1920-32 Attends local public schools in State College, Pennsylvania where his father managed a farm owned by Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)
1932 Enters Penn State majoring in English
1936 Graduates, works briefly for the local Center Daily Times newspaper
1936-7 Earns master's degree at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
1937 Boston Daily Record staff reporter
1938 Marries Virginia Matthews
1940? Reporter for Associated Press
1942 Joins the staff of American magazine as a section editor, later becoming a staff writer.
1956 American magazine closes (July)
1956 Writer for Collier's
1956 Collier's closes (December)
1957 The Hidden Persuaders receives national attention and launches Packardís career as a social critic and full-time lecturer and book author
1961 Named a Distinguished Alumnus of Penn State
1996 Dies at his summer home on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts
1946 How to Pick a Mate a guide co-authored with the head of the Penn State marriage counseling service
1950 Animal IQ a popular paperback on animal intelligence
1957 The Hidden Persuaders on the advertising industry - the first of a popular series of books on sociology topics
1959 The Status Seekers describing American social stratification and behavior
1960 The Waste Makers criticizes planned obsolescence describing the impact of American productivity, especially on the national character
1962 The Pyramid Climbers Describes the changing impact of American enterprise on managers, the structured lives of corporate executives and the conformity they need to advance in the hierarchy
1964 The Naked Society on the threats to privacy posed by new technologies such as computerized filing, modern surveillance techniques and methods for influencing human behavior
1968 The Sexual Wilderness on the sexual revolution of the 1960s and changes in male-female relationships
1972 A Nation of Strangers about the attrition of communal structure through frequent geographical transfers of corporate executives
1977 The People Shapers on the use of psychological & biological testing and experimentation to manipulate human behavior
1983 Our Endangered Children discusses growing up in a changing world, warning that American preoccupation with money, power, status, and sex, ignored the needs of future generations
1989 Ultra Rich: How Much Is Too Much? examined the lives of thirty American multimillionaires and their extravagances.