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Thrift and Thriving in AmericaCapitalism and Moral Order from the Puritans to the Present$
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Joshua Yates and James Davison Hunter

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199769063

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199769063.001.0001

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Thrift and Moral Formation

Thrift and Moral Formation

(p.242) 10 Thrift and Moral Formation
Thrift and Thriving in America

James Davison Hunter

Oxford University Press

This chapter charts the displacement of the classic discourse of thrift in the moral education of children. Shifting away from older lessons about magnanimity and the importance of avoiding miserliness, American education in this age became acutely focused on the potential instability of economic life in the new urban centers. As a result, national movements supporting thrift were spawned, creating savings plans at banks, post offices, and even public schools—it was, in the sense of moral exhortation, the golden age of thrift. This moment of triumph would not last long, however. The revolution in productive efficiency in the 1920s quickly began to shift opinion away from the psychology of scarcity that created the thrift ethos and toward a new sense of American prosperity and abundance. Soon, the new economic philosophy of “consumptionism” was dominant, and the individual thrift that proved powerless in response to the Great Depression was on the out. New curricula encouraged parents to take their children on shopping trips and train them to be wise and efficient consumers.

Keywords:   thrift, moral education, American education, savings plans, consumptionism

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