Against Thrift: Why Consumer Culture is Good for the Economy, the Environment, and Your Soul

Against Thrift: Why Consumer Culture is Good for the Economy, the Environment, and Your Soul

by James Livingston
     
 

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Since the financial meltdown of 2008, economists, journalists, and politicians have uniformly insisted that to restore the American Dream and renew economic growth, we need to save more and spend less.

In his provocative new book, historian James Livingston—author of the classic Origins of the Federal Reserve System—breaks from the consensus to

Overview

Since the financial meltdown of 2008, economists, journalists, and politicians have uniformly insisted that to restore the American Dream and renew economic growth, we need to save more and spend less.

In his provocative new book, historian James Livingston—author of the classic Origins of the Federal Reserve System—breaks from the consensus to argue that underconsumption caused the current crisis and will prolong it. By viewing the Great Recession through the prism of the Great Depression, Livingston proves that private investment is not the engine of growth we assume it to be. Tax cuts for business are therefore a recipe for disaster. If our goal is to reproduce the economic growth of the postwar era, we need a redistribution of income that reduces corporate profits, raises wages, and promotes consumer spending.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Since September 11, Americans have been exhorted to spend more; to do otherwise would be un-American, ill-advised, or just plain wrong. Livingston (The World Turned Inside Out) adds his voice to the chorus in his polemic against thrift. Our commonsense notion of how growth happens is completely mistaken, he argues; private savings and investment do not drive growth. He makes a persuasive case for consumer culture: why it’s actually good for the economy, the environment, and our souls, among other things, and that less work, less thrift, more leisure, and more spending are the cures for what ails us. His argument goes beyond the financial; he wants Americans to be less thrifty in the broadest sense, withholding less and desiring more, shunning austerity as a soul-crushing emotional trap. We need a new mindset, argues Livingston, of abundance and spending, if we want to prevent another economic disaster and promote balanced, sustainable growth. His research and reasoning is remarkable, though fairly dry; it’s perfect for the classroom, but may be a tall order for the average reader. (Dec.)
From the Publisher

Benjamin Kunkel, author of Indecision and founding editor of n +1
“While madmen in authority declare a new age of austerity, James Livingston has—in the best American tradition—written a radically commonsensical and scandalously good-natured ode to abundance. Against Thrift seems to me easily the most original and potentially the most important book yet to emerge from the ongoing economic crisis.”

Jeff Madrick, author of Age of Greed and editor of Challenge
“I can't say that I agree with every word in James Livingston's  Against Thrift.  But to say it is original and intelligent are understatements.  It is a joy to welcome so refreshing a set of arguments to the public discourse. He has the audacity to make a case for consumption. He takes on one piece of conventional wisdom after another. And it is all so darned readable. I disagree, I kept saying to myself, but sometimes I agreed that I disagreed, and I always kept reading.  I even occasionally changed my mind, and that's too rare an event for any of us.”
 
David Levering Lewis, Professor of History, New York University and Pulitzer-Prize winning biographer
“As a historian of large social systems, I find James Livingston's Against Thrift interpretively stunning. If the book's thesis is correct, the American future is hostage to a demonstrably outmoded growth paradigm of gross maldistribution of wealth and avoidable cyclical market chaos…The timely publication of Against Thrift is virtually a public service.”
 
Marc Chandler, Chief Global Currency Strategist, Brown Brothers Harriman
“Against Thrift is the first fully articulated alternative to the conventional thinking that created the financial crisis and inhibits the recovery. Livingston has written a masterpiece—an interdisciplinary narrative, rooted in American tradition. It should be read and studied by investors and policy makers alike. It is both revolutionary and conservative at the same time, so it is a useful antidote to the poison that is all too often offered as a cure by both the Left and Right. If Wall Street and Washington took Livingston's views to heart, the crisis would end, and America's role as the ‘indispensable nation’ would be restored.”
 
Justin Fox, author, The Myth of the Rational Market
“Karl Marx wants you to go shopping. To save capitalism. With this mind-bendingly provocative book, Jim Livingston is out to convince you that almost everything mainstream economists say about the Great Recession is wrong. He might just succeed.”
 

Publisher’s Weekly “[Livingston] makes a persuasive case for consumer culture: why it’s actually good for the economy, the environment, and our souls….His research and reasoning is remarkable.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465028092
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
11/22/2011
Series:
NONE Series
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
File size:
898 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

James Livingston is a Professor of History at Rutgers University. He is the author of four previous books and a regular contributor to the History News Network. He lives in New York City.

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