The Rise of Consumer Society in Britain, 1880-1980

By John Benson | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
CHANGES IN SUPPLY

The relationship between demand, supply and consumption remains notoriously difficult to disentangle. It was seen in the previous chapter that the growth and redirection of consumption could not have taken place without corresponding changes in the scale and distribution of demand. It will be shown in this chapter that the growth and redirection of consumption could not have taken place without corresponding changes in the scale and distribution of supply. 1 Of course, supply and consumption were no more synonymous than demand and consumption. For not all goods and service find buyers: one has only to think of the periodic slumps that occur in the housing market, or of the many second and third division football matches that fail to attract spectators. Supply does not necessarily create its own demand.

However, when supply is disentangled from consumption, two major developments become apparent. Accordingly, this chapter, like the last, is divided into two. The first section considers the expansion in the supply of goods and services available to the consumer; the second, and slightly shorter, section examines the ways in which suppliers sought to direct these goods and services towards those consumers whose purchasing power was increasing most rapidly.

It is easy to show that the supply of goods and services available to the British consumer increased at an unprecedented rate during the past two hundred years. It is well known that the restructuring of the economy, the introduction of mechanisation and the adoption of other, organisational innovations exercised a most profound effect: these changes increased the supply (and reduced the cost) of traditional products such as food and housing, and made possible the introduction of a wide range of new products -- from motor cars and television sets to breakfast cereals and package holidays. 2

This growth in the supply of goods and services is measured most conveniently in terms of gross national (or domestic) product. Thus

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The Rise of Consumer Society in Britain, 1880-1980
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS vi
  • LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS viii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part One CONTEXT 9
  • Chapter 1: CHANGES IN DEMAND 11
  • Chapter 2: CHANGES IN SUPPLY 35
  • Part Two CHANGES 57
  • Chapter 3: SHOPPING 59
  • Chapter 4: TOURISM 82
  • Chapter 5: SPORT 110
  • Part Three CONSEQUENCES 141
  • Chapter 6: THE CONSOLIDATION OF NATIONAL IDENTITY? 143
  • Chapter 7 the Creation of Youth Culture? 164
  • Chapter 8: THE EMANCIPATION OF WOMEN? 180
  • Chapter 9: THE DEFUSION OF CLASS TENSION? 204
  • Conclusion 233
  • NOTES AND REFERENCES 235
  • GUIDE TO FURTHER READING 236
  • Index 240
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