Buying time: A theory of mass consumption as wage labor commenusuration /

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Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Rosenberg, Stephen, author.
Ann Arbor : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, 2015
Description:1 electronic resource (472 pages)
Format: E-Resource Dissertations
Local Note:School code: 0330
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Other authors / contributors:University of Chicago. degree granting institution.
Notes:Advisors: Andrew Abbott Committee members: Karin Knorr Cetina; William H. Sewell, Jr.
This item is not available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses.
Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 77-05(E), Section: A.
Summary:This dissertation offers an explanation for a puzzling pattern of historical development in capitalism over the course of the twentieth century. It takes as its starting point the failure to come to pass of the prediction made by John Maynard Keynes in his 1930 essay, The Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren. Keynes suggested that increasing productivity would by the early twenty-first century lead to a radical reduction in the length of the working week. Yet the subsequent history of the advanced industrial world indicates nothing of the sort. What occurred in place of the reduction in work time envisaged by Keynes was the emergence of a very dynamic consumer economy. The dissertation develops a novel theory to account for this pattern of historical development, focusing on the connection between changes in conceptions of wage labor as a legitimate form of economic exchange, and shifting attitudes toward the trade-off between money and free time. I suggest that once wage labor becomes naturalized as part of the moral order of economic life, and widely understood as a potentially "fair" exchange of commensurable substances (labor for a wage), accumulative consumerism follows as a logical consequence. The theory is empirically grounded in historical analysis of the United States between the later nineteenth and later twentieth century. Topics considered include the early twentieth-century emergence of the notion of the "fair wage"; projects and processes of standardization in the first half of the twentieth century, in particular, those leading to the standardization of the properties of consumer products; changes in law covering consumer transactions, especially the shift from the legal principle of caveat emptor to the implied product warranty; the growth of consumer product testing, both by the state and by non-governmental organizations; and the mid-century moral panic about planned obsolescence. Although the empirical analysis concentrates on the US, the theoretical model can be extended to other societies in which mass consumer capitalism developed.