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Consumers and the State since the Second World War

Matthew Hilton
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Vol. 611, The Politics of Consumption/The Consumption of Politics (May, 2007), pp. 66-81
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25097909
Page Count: 16
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Consumers and the State since the Second World War
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Abstract

In the twentieth century, consumption became a political project intimately bound up with the state. By the 1950s, governments across the world worked to promote a vision of consumer society based around access and participation-affluence for all-rather than choice and luxury for the few. This vision of consumerism was tied in with the geopolitics of the cold war but was also constitutive of other globalizing trends that connected not only Western Europe to North America but also both sides of the Iron Curtain as well as the global South and North. The article analyzes the development of, and compares the differences in, the various consumer protection regimes that emerged in the latter half of the century. It points to processes of convergence in consumer politics across the globe that saw the development of consumer political thinking in the Soviet bloc and the development of supranational protection regimes at the European level. In more recent decades, the politics of consumer society based upon access and the collective has been eclipsed by a politics that emphasizes choice and the individual. Such a change represents a profound shift in the relations between consumers, citizens, and governments.

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