THE HISTORY OF CONSUMPTION Kasper H. Andersen, Kristoffer Jensen & Mikkel Thelle (red.): Forbrugets kulturhistorie: Butik, by og forbrugere efter 1660, Aarhus: Aarhus Universitetsforlag, 2017. In their introduction to this volume, the editors write that, ”Danske historikere har ikke beskæftiget sig meget med forbrugets betydning for samfundsudviklingen” (p. 17). That is quite surprising. After all, we are all consumers. The consumption of goods and services has been fundamental in the development of modern Danish society, just as it has been elsewhere. But perhaps herein lies the problem. One of the reasons for this lacuna may thus simply be the unwieldiness of the topic and the enormous dif?iculty of trying to make sense of consumption and consumer history in a coherent way.1 The history of consumption can be studied in a myriad of ways. The ?ield has been fragmented: are we concerned with histories of consumption, or of consumption regimes, consumerism, consumers or consumer society?2 The history of consumption can provide a lens through which to investigate many other historical problems. It can help to address some fundamental questions about the emergence and evolution of modern capitalism in local, national and global contexts, and also how such developments have been challenged and contested. The consumption – or not – of particular goods has always been intimately associated with the formation of cultural identities, whether individual or social, but equally importantly consumption has also been a matter for regulation and the negotiation of citizenship, and for political struggles over this.3 In a Swedish context, studies of the history of consumption have shed further light on the history of the welfare state, as a means to secure minimum material standards of living for consumer citizens, but also through education to encourage these consumer citizens to undertake ‘rational consumption’ in the broader interests of state and society.4 Peter N. Stearns has de?ined consumerism as “a society in which many people formulate their goals in life partly through acquiring goods that they do not 1 The most important recent contribution to the ?ield is Trentmann: Empire of Things. See also Strikwerda: ‘Too Much of a Good Thing?’. 2 Trentmann: ‘Beyond Consumerism’. 3 Cohen: A Consumers’ Republic. 4 Aléx: Den rationella konsumenten; Aléx: Konsumera rätt; see also Husz and Lagerkvist: ’Konsumtions motsägelser’; Husz: Drömmars värde.
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