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Social Opulence and Private RestraintThe Consumer in British Socialist Thought Since 1800$
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Noel Thompson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199646012

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199646012.001.0001

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Socialist Political Economy and the Growth of Mass Consumption, 1880–1914

Socialist Political Economy and the Growth of Mass Consumption, 1880–1914

(p.42) (p.43) 2 Socialist Political Economy and the Growth of Mass Consumption, 1880–1914
Social Opulence and Private Restraint

Noel Thompson

Oxford University Press

The chapter considers the conceptualization of the consumer and consumption in the socialist economic literature of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. The birth of modern socialism coincided with the emergence of a society characterized by growing affluence and consumer power. This chapter discusses the nature of the ideological challenges which that presented for socialist writers and the manner in which they responded to these. In particular the chapter considers their often critical view of the character of working-class desires, their concern to emphasize that a socialist transformation of society involved more than the more equitable distribution of a material abundance, the importance of consumption as recreation, their discussion of the extent to which desire would need to be educated and the importance of conceiving of consumption in social as well as individual terms.

Keywords:   socialism, abundance, desire, consumer, social consumption, rational recreation

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