This book is the first comprehensive history of consumerism as an organised social and political movement. Matthew Hilton offers a groundbreaking account of consumer movements, ideologies and organisations in twentieth-century Britain. He argues that in organisations such as the Co-operative movement and the Consumers' Association individual concern with what and how we spend our wages led to forms of political engagement too often overlooked in existing accounts of twentieth-century history. He explores how the consumer and consumerism came to be regarded by many as a third force in society with the potential to free politics from the perceived stranglehold of the self-interested actions of employers and trade unions. Finally he recovers the visions of countless consumer activists who saw in consumption a genuine force for liberation for women, the working class and new social movements as well as a set of ideas often deliberately excluded from more established political organisations.
Matthew Hilton is Lecturer in Modern British History at the University of Birmingham and the author of Smoking in British Popular Culture, 1800-2000 (2000).
Introduction: luxury's shadow; Part I. Necessity: 1. Socialism, cooperation, free trade and fair trade: the politics of consumption in the nineteenth century; 2. Revolutionary shoppers: the Consumers' Council and scarcity in World War I; 3. The right to live: consumer 'ideology' in inter-war Britain; 4. The price of depression: consumer politics after World War I; 5. Austerity to affluence: the twilight of the politics of necessity; Part II. Affluence: 6. The new consumer: good housewives and enlightened businessmen; 7. The professionals: the origins of the organised consumer movement; 8. Individualism enshrined: the state and the consumer in the 1960s; 9. The right to shop: consumerism and the economy; 10. The duty of citizens: consumerism and society; 11. Affluence or effluence: globalisation and ethical consumerism; Conclusion: the quantity or the quality of choice.