The Question of Thrift
This introductory chapter begins with a brief discussion of the renewed importance of the concept of thrift in American consciousness in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. It then presents reasons for studying thrift including its absence in moral philosophy and moral theology and its rather sudden and seemingly arbitrary appearance in history. It further argues that a social history and moral philosophical reflection on thrift is a window into the changing culture of capitalism, and this claim begins to gesture at the ambition of this volume. This book aims to offer a conceptually fresh, empirically vibrant, and largely unprecedented account of thrift in American history. Underpinning the rich diversity of disciplinary perspectives are two overarching claims: firstly, what is striking from even a cursory glance at the history of thrift is its astonishing capaciousness and dynamism, challenging the narrow and attenuated rendering of thrift as mere frugality; and, secondly, the idiom of thrift has served as the primary language Americans have used for articulating the normative dimensions of economic life throughout their history. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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