The Eclipse of 'Elegant Economy'

Cohen, Martin
Date published: 
March 2012

With concepts of 'austerity' very much in the news, this book takes a fresh look at attitudes to consumption, consumerism and personal finance in Britain during the middle decades of the twentieth century. It argues that the pre-War fear of debt and social disdain for conspicuous consumption was replaced during the 1940s and 1950s by widespread acceptance of a consumer society. As the financial woes of the 21st century force a reassessment of the sustainability of a consumer-based society, this book provides a timely reminder of how attitudes to personal finance are of greater significance to cultural history than has often been acknowledged. With prudence and restraint once more the watchwords of a financially uncertain world, 'elegant economy' as Elizabeth Gaskell put it, may be back on the agenda.