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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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The Modernization of Thrift

The Modernization of Thrift

(p.209) 9 The Modernization of Thrift
Thrift and Thriving in America

T. J. Jackson Lears

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the new managerial thrift which emphasized “efficiency” as a means to higher productivity. This shift reemphasizes the movement toward a new psychology of “abundance” that characterizes this whole era of American history. The apotheosis of the managerial ethic was found in Progressives such as economist Richard Ely, who championed the practice of thrift in relation to resources in industrial productivity and thought this moral watchfulness in one area was certain to produce increased wages for workers in another. The optimism of this sort of approach fell apart in the stock market crash of 1929, and the response over the course of the Great Depression was the need for collective, not merely individual, methods of saving. Another key aspect of the new managerial age was the growth of consumer culture based on planned obsolescence and ever-changing styles. The result was a compromise between labor, management, and government that tied increasing consumption and productivity together as the major engines of American economic growth for the better part of the 20th century.

Keywords:   managerial thrift, efficiency, productivity, abundance, Richard Ely, Great Depression

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