Household Accounts: Working-Class Family Economies in the Interwar United States by Susan Porter BensonHousehold Accounts: Working-Class Family Economies in the Interwar United States by Susan Porter Benson

Household Accounts: Working-Class Family Economies in the Interwar United States

bySusan Porter BensonAfterword byDavid Montgomery

Paperback | September 25, 2015

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With unprecedented subtlety, compassion and richness of detail, Susan Porter Benson takes readers into the budgets and the lives of working-class families in the United States between the two world wars. Focusing on families from regions across America and of differing races and ethnicities, she argues that working-class families of the time were not on the verge of entering the middle class and embracing mass culture. Rather, she contends that during the interwar period such families lived in a context of scarcity and limited resources, not plenty. Their consumption, Benson argues, revolved around hard choices about basic needs and provided therapeutic satisfactions only secondarily, if at all.Household Accounts is rich with details Benson gathered from previously untapped sources, particularly interviews with women wage earners conducted by field agents of the Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor. She provides a vivid picture of a working-class culture of family consumption: how working-class families negotiated funds; how they made qualitative decisions about what they wanted; how they determined financial strategies and individual goals; and how, in short, families made ends meet during this period. Topics usually central to the histories of consumption—he development of mass consumer culture, the hegemony of middle-class versions of consumption, and the expanded offerings of the marketplace—contributed to but did not control the lives of working-class people. Ultimately, Household Accounts seriously calls into question the usual narrative of a rising and inclusive tide of twentieth-century consumption.

The late Susan Porter Benson was Director of Women's Studies at the University of Connecticut and the author of Counter Cultures: Saleswoman, Managers, and Customers in American Department Stores, 1890-1940. The late David Montgomery was Farnam Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University and the author of several books, including ...
Title:Household Accounts: Working-Class Family Economies in the Interwar United StatesFormat:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.57 inPublished:September 25, 2015Publisher:Cornell University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:080145672X

ISBN - 13:9780801456725

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Table of Contents

A Note on Household Accounts and Its Preparation
AcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. "Living on the Margin": Working-Class Marriages and Family Survival Strategies2. "Cooperative Conflict": Gender, Generation, and Consumption in Working-Class Families3. The Mutuality of Shared Spaces4. What Goes 'Round, Comes ’Round:Working-Class Reciprocity5. The Family Economy in the MarketplaceClass, Gender, and Reciprocity: An Afterword
by David MontgomeryNotes

Editorial Reviews

"Just as Susan Porter Benson's first book, Counter Cultures, changed the way historians looked at the work-culture of consumerism, so her last book, Household Accounts, will change the way we understand the 'consumerism' of working-class families in the interwar era. By bringing to light the intimate and often conflicted negotiations over expenditures within working-class families, this extraordinary book shows how far working men and women compromised with conventional gender rules in their efforts to survive at the narrow, short-credit margins of the American way of life." - Jean-Christophe Agnew, Yale University