Glass was a symbol of the merchant’s unilateral power in a capitalist society to refuse goods to anyone in need, to close off access without being condemned as cruel and immoral (as he might have been condemned in a precapitalist feudal society when it was expected that powerful personages even as they extracted payments from peasants, had an obligation to give something in return). At the same time, the pictures behind the glass enticed the viewer. The result was a mingling of refusal and desire that must have greatly intensified desire, adding another level of cruelty. Perhaps more than any other medium, glass democratized desire even as it dedemocratized access to goods. There it is, you see it as big as life–you see it amplified everywhere, you see everything revealed–but you cannot reach it. Unless you shatter the window or go in an pay for it. you cannot have it. In such a context, the breaking of glass could have easily become a class act.
William Leach, Land of Desire, 63.