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The well-being of Europe’s citizens depends less on individual consumption and more on their social consumption of essential goods and services – from water and retail banking to schools and care homes – in what we call the foundational economy. Individual consumption depends on market income, while foundational consumption depends on social infrastructure and delivery systems of networks and branches, which are neither created nor renewed automatically, even as incomes increase. This historically created foundational economy has been wrecked in the last generation by privatisation, outsourcing, franchising and the widespread penetration of opportunistic and predatory business models. The distinctive, primary role of public policy should therefore be to secure the supply of basic services for all citizens (not a quantum of economic growth and jobs). Reconstructing the foundational has to start with a vision of citizenship that identifies foundational entitlements as the conditions for dignified human development, and likewise has to depend on treating the business enterprises central to the foundational economy as juridical persons with claims to entitlements but also with responsibilities and duties. If the aim is citizen well-being and flourishing for the many not the few, then European politics at regional, national and EU level needs to be refocused on foundational consumption and securing universal minimum access and quality. If/when government is unresponsive, the impetus for change has to come from engaging citizens locally and regionally in actions which break with the top down politics of ‘vote for us and we will do this for you’.

Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Smiles and Victorian moralism
Alison Hulme

Puritans. Besides, as the nineteenth century progressed, this specifically religious motivation for thrift became more aligned to a general sense of social morality typified by Victorian middle-​class attitudes. As Yates and Hunter put it, Puritan thrift gave way to ‘classic thrift’ –​an emphasis on the morality of the individual’s financial behaviour (2011). They argue that it was at this moment that ‘thrift and this [pan-​Protestant] ethical sensibility gradually detached themselves from the Puritan providentialist cosmology that originally underwrote them. Thrift in

in A brief history of thrift
Ariane Agunsoye, Michelle Groenewald, Danielle Guizzo, and Bruno Roberts- Dear

, even if, as in Alex’s case, they had not engaged with it in school. Erika, who identifies as Japanese American and middle class with working-class family members , recalled the life her grandmother experienced on a low income with cancer as being a motivating factor for choosing economics, as she wondered at that time

in Reclaiming economics for future generations
Abstract only
Alison Hulme

which thrift has been used by those with influence to enhance or rally against capitalism(s). A by-​product of this shift from thrift as thriving (ethical thrift), to thrift as frugality (moral thrift) is that (with a few exceptions) it has gradually been prised away from actually belonging to people as a practice of everyday life that can be used wilfully, tactically and sometimes as resistance. Instead, it has become rationalised as part of socio-​economic arguments made by early capitalists, religious thinkers who tied their beliefs to capitalism and middle-​class

in A brief history of thrift
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Keynes, consumer rights and the new thrifty consumers
Alison Hulme

) and upon its publication immediately inspired a political mass movement in which ‘Bellamy Clubs’ were set up to discuss and put into action the book’s ideas. Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), whilst broadly aligned to Marxist thought in some ways, was in others a treatise in favour of individualism in that he saw conspicuous consumption as un-​American because it encouraged the working and middle classes to copy the style of the upper classes rather than seek their own social status, prestige and happiness. Yet the combination of these three

in A brief history of thrift
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Frugality, de-growth and Voluntary Simplicity
Alison Hulme

have experienced enough in order to voluntarily simplify! Even its own members acknowledge this. As a result, the movement is overwhelmingly white and middle-​class. Both Elgin and Mitchell’s (1977) and Linda Pierce’s (1996–​ 1998) studies found simplifiers to be almost entirely Caucasian, female, highly educated, living in urban or suburban areas, and in their thirties or above with no children living at home. In the Pierce study, 64 per cent were married but 61 per cent had no children living at home. As Schor points out, it is also the case that many voluntary

in A brief history of thrift
Alison Hulme

consumption was the major driver in the consumer revolution and it was therefore the rich who led the revolution as their spending provoked the consumer desire of the middle classes, and theirs in turn that of the lower classes. For McKendrick et al., social emulation saw the pursuit of luxuries rather than ‘decencies’, and decencies rather than necessities (1984:98). They attribute this emulation to the onset of fashion in the middle of the eighteenth century and the speed with which trends suddenly started changing with regularity when previously they had remained stable

in A brief history of thrift
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Thoreau in the city
Alison Hulme

thrifty; and to engage them in a collective process that empowers those who cannot afford to be (for whom thrift is simply normality). Thoreau’s issue with Brook Farm was precisely that, and whilst his answer may have at first appeared individualistic, by the end of his life he had attempted to come up with an alternative collective thrift that bypassed the mechanisms of capitalism and challenged economic inequality. So, to return thrift to thriving is not simply about the personal happiness of the middle-​class few, but about equality. Thrift (as both thriving and

in A brief history of thrift
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Simplicity, sensuality and politics in Henry Thoreau
Alison Hulme

, ‘most of the luxuries, and many of the so-​called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more simple and meagre life than the poor’ (Thoreau, 2012:9). It is important to acknowledge that Thoreau himself was privileged, not only in his own status as a white, middle-​class man, but also in that through knowing Emerson it was possible for him to build a hut on land without being evicted, and to live off that land. His was a form of voluntary

in A brief history of thrift
Joe Earle, Cahal Moran, and Zach Ward-Perkins

highs ever since.43 Globally, the past few decades have seen stagnation in the incomes of the Western middle classes and the very poorest (in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa), while the incomes of the very richest in the West and the middle classes of fast-growing developing countries such as China have gained.44 The story of income inequality over this period is a result of the interplay of complex global and national forces. Unfortunately, a lack of conceptual, geographic, political and historical analysis means that the neoclassical framework often fails to

in The econocracy