A phoney culture war

In: Uncategorized

10 Jan 2009

John Willman, the UK business editor of the Financial Times, argues today that there is a culture war raging between puritans and spendthrifts. He counter-poses early proponents of thrift, such as Benjamin Franklin and Max Weber to those, such as John Maynard Keynes, who recognise the need for spending in a downturn. Willman comes down by conclusively coming down on the side of Keynes in his call for government spending to bolster a sagging economy.

Willman’s argument is simplistic. The spendthrifts and the puritans have an important assumption in common: their obsession with consumption. But if the fundamental problem is not one of lack of demand then neither set of measures is likely to revive the economy.

In any case, Josie Appleton dealt with the debate about the cultural contradictions of consumerism much more convincingly in a review in spiked last year. She points out, among other things, that the counter-attack against consumerism was already apparent in the counter-culture of the 1960s (as well as in the 1920s). More fundamentally she argues against the contemporary obsession with consumption as a subject for debate.

Comment Form