Global Economy, Consumer Revolution, Conjugal Household: Reframing Domestic Life in the Ancien Regime
Their domestic catastrophe provides a devastating counterpoint to the now classic historiographical scenario that links the consumer revolution as a modern, liberatory vehicle to a new form of sentimental domesticity as keys in shifts to modern democratic, capitalist economies. The “new family,” with its emphasis on spousal companionship, education and the importance of motherhood and the acquisition of new goods in the “consumer revolution” are framed as vehicles for political liberation and modern subjectivity. Yet, most families were left out of the consumer revolution: they did not or could not buy such goods and/or their jobs were displaced by the new goods (as in the case of Lyon’s huge population of silk workers whose employment was depressed with the rise of cotton). This new domesticity was peril-filled for spouses, parents and children and characterized by hard choices. This paper highlights the frictions inherent in the production-consumption-reproduction nexus as keys to re-framing 18th-century domesticity.
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