The Virtue of Consumption

Lawrence B. Glickman

in Thrift and Thriving in America

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780199769063
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199896851 | DOI:
The Virtue of Consumption

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This chapter builds the case for the growth of “moral consumption”. It argues that thrift was not only a moral virtue; it was understood as one of the central building blocks of civilization, a republican way of life that supported the larger identity and goals of the nation. The challenges to thrift that began to arise in the era after the Civil War, then, took the shape of alternate views of the composition of civilization itself. One early example was the consumer activism of the abolitionist era that cast spending in a new, morally positive light. Soon even workers' groups were touting consumption as the path to a more civilized life. In the new industrial manufacturing culture, advocating for steady and increasing consumption often became equated with support of the industry itself. This idea easily spun over into the New Deal logic that spending and increased production was the way to heal the economy in the new age of abundance.

Keywords: thrift; moral consumption; consumer activism; industrial manufacturing culture; New Deal logic; spending

Chapter.  9468 words. 

Subjects: Economic Sociology

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