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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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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 26 September 2021

Conceptualizing the Consumer in an Age of Affluence

Conceptualizing the Consumer in an Age of Affluence

(p.104) (p.105) 4 Conceptualizing the Consumer in an Age of Affluence
Social Opulence and Private Restraint

Noel Thompson

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses how socialist writers responded to the growing political and economic significance of the consumer in a period which saw a dramatic improvement in living standards. Affluence posed the problem of a capitalism that was delivering the goods and delivering them in ever increasing variety and at prices that made them widely accessible. For some this necessitated a more positive attitude to consumption and the consumer and an attempt to integrate them more positively into their envisioned socialisms. Others were more critical, viewing consumer affluence as making for social squalor, jeopardizing the pursuit of collective objectives, engendering social rivalry, encouraging a possessive individualism and threatening social solidarity. Discussion revolved around such issues as the rationality of consumers, the reality of choice and consumer sovereignty, the moral and social consequences of consumption, its liberating potentialities and the relative merits of private affluence and social expenditure.

Keywords:   consumer, consumption, consumerism, affluence, squalor, social expenditure, possessive individualism, consumer choice, consumer sovereignty, socialism

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