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Editors: Stan Metcalfe and Alan Warde

There has been increasing interest and debate in recent years on the instituted nature of economic processes in general and the related ideas of the market and the competitive process in particular. This debate lies at the interface between two largely independent disciplines, economics and sociology, and reflects an attempt to bring the two fields of discourse more closely together. This book explores this interface in a number of ways, looking at the competitive process and market relations from a number of different perspectives. It considers the social role of economic institutions in society and examines the various meanings embedded in the word 'markets', as well as developing arguments on the nature of competition as an instituted economic process. The close of the twentieth century saw a virtual canonisation of markets as the best, indeed the only really effective, way to govern an economic system. The market organisation being canonised was simple and pure, along the lines of the standard textbook model in economics. The book discusses the concepts of polysemy , idealism, cognition, materiality and cultural economy. Michael Best provides an account of regional economic adaptation to changed market circumstances. This is the story of the dynamics of capitalism focused on the resurgence of the Route 128 region around Boston following its decline in the mid-1980s in the face of competition from Silicon Valley. The book also addresses the question of how this resurgence was achieved.

Alison Hulme

6 1 Towards a theory of thrift Capitalism as the parasite of thrift Mention thrift to most current-​day academics in marketing, cultural studies or even cultural geography circles and one of the first theories they mention will be that of Daniel Miller in his A Theory of Shopping (2013). Using evidence from ethnographic research in north London, Miller argues that whilst shopping trips often begin by being about the pleasure of spending money, they frequently shift to focusing on saving money, and play upon traditional notions of restraint and sobriety being

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

’s asceticism was extreme, and could easily look puritanical at first glance, but running through it was a sense of the desire to get back to a sensory enjoyment of nature that the machinations of life under capitalism had somehow destroyed. Temperatures, tastes, textures, sounds, smells, tiny details of plants were all to be celebrated in Thoreau’s version of thrift  –​a version we might usefully label sensual asceticism. Talking of village life, for example, he says, ‘to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-​hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe

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

108 Conclusion: Thoreau in the city The title of this book is not only descriptive, but wilfully creative of a new history. Thrift has tended to be portrayed in historical and economic discourse as either a ‘new movement’, or as something that has occurred in historical ‘blips’ or ‘moments’ when historical conditions impacted negatively upon capitalism’s ability to provide. There is so much wrong with this interpretation that it is difficult to know where to begin! For a start, capitalism is not known for its ability to provide for all; rather for its ability

in A brief history of thrift

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’.

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Alison Hulme

, it attempts to pick apart the relationship between capitalism and thrift and assert thrift, as its own practice, in its own right, not only as capitalism’s handmaiden (although acknowledging this role), but as its historically ever-​present Other. This book is not a historical treatise, robustly covering all periods. Experts on any of the historical periods or characters that feature in it will have little to gain from it in terms of furthering their historical knowledge. It is not chronological in any 2 2 A brief history of thrift strict sense. And it leaps

in A brief history of thrift
Richard R. Nelson

relatively recent phenomena. A significant expansion in the role of markets occurred first in Great Britain around the beginning of the eighteenth century, and later spread to continental Europe, and the United States, still later to Japan, and more recently to large portions of the world. Of course certain kinds of markets have existed from virtually the dawn of history, but until recently were central in only a small portion of human activity. It is the pervasiveness of markets and of the system that came to be called capitalism that are relatively new on the historical

in Market relations and the competitive process
Open Access (free)
Stan Metcalfe and Alan Warde

capitalism. The contributions to this volume explore this interface in a number of ways. The purpose of this Introduction is to place these contributions in the wider context and briefly to outline the content of the various chapters. We consider the best place to start to be with the analysis of the nature of markets by drawing a distinction between the general market system and particular markets. This inevitably leads us to a discussion of the relation between markets and competition. The central presence of markets in the operation of capitalism should require no

in Market relations and the competitive process
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Frugality, de-growth and Voluntary Simplicity
Alison Hulme

 al., 2006; Scott-​Cato, 2006). In addition, many commentators feel the term does not sufficiently recognise the role of capitalism in environmental destruction, or that it is capitalism rather than environmental practice that needs to change (see Malm, 2016; Sklair, 2016). Much, but not all, of this critique of neo-​ classical economics and its assumptions of the necessity of growth are explicitly anti-​capitalist. Here, Andreas Malm’s work on ‘fossil capital’ is key. Malm argued that the shift to steam power took place essentially because it allowed capitalists to better

in A brief history of thrift
Problems of polysemy and idealism
Andrew Sayer

Storper and Walker’s 1989 distinction.) The dynamism of capitalist economies is not a consequence simply of markets in the restricted sense, but of capital, obliged to accumulate in order to survive, and liberated from the ties which bind petty commodity producers. Hence this slide from a restricted to an inclusive sense of ‘market’ also enables the term ‘market economy’ to serve as a euphemism for capitalism. Marshallian demand–supply diagrams provide restricted views of markets, marginalising the social relations of production and the processes of production and

in Market relations and the competitive process