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

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 ...

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

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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.

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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.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465028092
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 11/22/2011
  • Series: NONE Series
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 928,860
  • File size: 877 KB

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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Table of Contents

Introduction: Waiting for Galileo ix

Part 1 Our Very Own Perestroika

1 Understanding Backward: The Past as Imprisonment 3

2 How to Explain a Crisis: The Revenge of the Populists 8

3 Their Great Depression and Ours 40

4 Living Forward: Economic History as Moral Philosophy, Social Theory, and Political Science 63

Part 2 The Morality of Spending

5 The Politics of "More": From Gompers to Du Bois 77

6 Exporting the Black Aesthetic: From Du Bois to Havel 99

7 The Wand of Increase: Advertising Desire 115

8 News from Nowhere: Advertising Utopia 135

9 It Beats Working: Why Consumer Culture Is Good for Your Soul and Our Planet 162

Coda: Bataille Made Me Do It 197

Appendix: Capital in the American Economy: Kuznets Revisited 211

Acknowledgments 231

Bibliography 233

Index 243

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 4, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Talk about taking the contrarian view! In his book, history prof

    Talk about taking the contrarian view! In his book, history professor James Livingston revels in debunking what he considers misguided examples of common sense. Frugality is the path to prosperity, right? Wrong, Livingston argues; thrift is a surefire way to anemic growth and a concentration of wealth. And isn’t advertising an anti-intellectual tool of greed and conformity? Nope; ads are powerful forces for morality and freedom, he says. Livingston is so incessantly ornery in this essay that the reader is tempted to wonder if he really believes all his arguments. Yet he manages to produce a thought-provoking, though sometimes dense, read that raises a number of worthy questions about conventional wisdom. getAbstract recommends this analysis to readers who enjoy a skeptical perspective on economic theory.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2012

    Great Book!

    Absolutely fantastic!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2012

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