This book surveys ‘thrift’ through its moral, religious, ethical, political, spiritual and philosophical expressions, focusing in on key moments such as the early Puritans and postwar rationing, and key characters such as Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Smiles and Henry Thoreau. The relationships between thrift and frugality, mindfulness, sustainability and alternative consumption practices are explained, and connections made between myriad conceptions of thrift and contemporary concerns for how consumer cultures impact scarce resources, wealth distribution and the Anthropocene. Ultimately, the book returns the reader to an understanding of thrift as it was originally used – to ‘thrive’ – and attempts to re-cast thrift in more collective, economically egalitarian terms, reclaiming it as a genuinely resistant practice. Students, scholars and general readers across all disciplines and interest areas will find much of interest in this book, which provides a multi-disciplinary look at a highly topical concept.

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Puritans, Quakers and Methodists

17 2 Religious thrift: Puritans, Quakers and Methodists Puritans and predestination The ‘frugality’ definition of thrift as ‘economic management, economy, sparing us or expenditures of means, frugality, saving’ is the one with which we are now most familiar. This second meaning, according to Yates and Hunter, did not emerge until around 200  years after the first. They argue that up until the fourteenth century, thrift did not exist ‘as a category of moral reflection or practical ethics’; rather, thrift in the sense of frugality emerged with the transformation

in A brief history of thrift
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Making do, rationing and nostalgic austerity

69 5 Nationalist thrift: making do, rationing and nostalgic austerity ‘Make do and mend’: thrift in the name of democracy So far, this book has tackled the religious thrift of the Puritans with its Providentialist and later more pragmatic concerns, the strict moral thrift of the Victorians with its grounding in individualism and social righteousness, and the spiritual individualism and communal vision of Thoreau. This chapter will explore examples of thrift quintessentially different from those witnessed so far, due to their emphasis on social solidarity based

in A brief history of thrift
Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Smiles and Victorian moralism

35 3 Individualist thrift: Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Smiles and Victorian moralism Benjamin Franklin and the secularisation of thrift The onset of a more individualistic rationale for thrift can in large part be attributed to a secularisation of the concept. The direct aim of Puritan thrift was not to make profit, but to do what was moral and right under the eyes of God. However, as the Augustinian sense of Puritan thought began to win through, making profit became increasingly acceptable as a way to guard against other ‘evils’  –​even in the eyes of the

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Simplicity, sensuality and politics in Henry Thoreau

53 4 Spiritual thrift: simplicity, sensuality and politics in Henry Thoreau Thoreau’s sensual thrift So far, this book has explored how the concept of thrift, motivated by various religious and individualist concerns, moved increasingly further away from its etymological sense of thriving, and closer to a sense of frugality at various points throughout history. Arguably, this shift in the meaning of the concept is at another historical high with the austerity culture in many European countries following the 2008 financial crash. Certainly, political rhetoric

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Frugality, de-growth and Voluntary Simplicity

92 7 Ecological thrift: frugality, de-​growth and Voluntary Simplicity Thrift as a tool for de-​growth Discourses around frugality and the environment are by no means new, and voices from across academic disciplines call for thrift from a broadly ecological standpoint, and have done for many decades. Several well-​researched and bestselling reports on the threatened state of the global environment saw public awareness grow from the 1970s onwards. Key amongst these was Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) and the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth report (1972

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Keynes, consumer rights and the new thrifty consumers

79 6 Consumer thrift: Keynes, consumer rights and the new thrifty consumers The Great Depression, thrift and consumer rights The previous chapter examined how thrift, as manifested through practices of consuming less, making do, or simply not consuming, was galvanised as a practice to aid the economic, and to some extent ideological, survival of nations. In contrast, this chapter shows how history very quickly came to employ a contrasting logic when it came to promoting action on the part of citizens. It explores an opposite form of thrift –​that of being a

in A brief history of thrift

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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1 Introduction At the conclusion of my last book –​On the Commodity Trail –​I asserted that consumptive thrift (i.e. that which essentially still encourages spending, but as part of seeking a ‘bargain’) was, in the current age, the only type of thrift fully condoned by those in positions of power in the West. Furthermore, I argued, it was used to obscure the fact that trickle-​down economics have failed both the developed and the developing world. Consumptive thrift, I argued, required people to consume; insisted upon itself as an activity engaged in, not in

in A brief history of thrift
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Thoreau in the city

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