Pocketbook Politics

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===Kirk Johnson, Spring 2013===

Revision as of 20:15, 30 January 2013

Meg Jacobs. Pocketbook Politics: Economic Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005. xiv, 349 pp. $35.00, ISBN 0-691-08664-8.


Jacob traces the emergence of consumption "as the foundation of American civic identity" (2) from approximately the turn of the twentieth century until the 1970s. She argues that throughout this period, "the ‘purchasing power question’ of what people could afford remained on the political agenda, regardless of the state of the economy or the politics pursued by Congress or the president" (3). This was largely due to inclusiveness of consumer ideology across race, class, and gender lines. By emphasizing the importance of the state's role in shaping how consumerism ideology formed and strengthened, Jacobs seeks to expand on the existing studies that have largely focused on consumerism at the grassroots level.

Pocketbook Politics is divided into three parts. Part 1 discusses how inflation in the early decades of the twentieth century made purchasing power an important, and at times urgent, political issue. Part 2 examines how progressives used these notions of purchasing power to shape national reform policies during the Great Depression. Part 3 addresses wartime inflation, the patriotic appeals for fair prices, and the postwar inability to control inflation that contributed to the "downfall of labor liberalism" (10). Jacobs' attention to the state and grassroots levels is reflected in the kinds of sources she draws on: governmental records, popular magazines, advertisements, personal papers of people like Edward Filene, and shoppers' guides to products.


Kirk Johnson, Spring 2013

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