STRUCTURAL CHANGE IN CONSUMPTION AND SAVINGS: THE POOR LAW, FRIENDLY SOCIETIES, SAVINGS BANKS, AND CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETIES
Introduction . In one important sense, structural differentiation maintains long-term stability in society. One social unit becomes relatively obsolete under some sort of situational pressure. After a period of disturbances, handling and channelling, and specification, the social unit differentiates, or progresses to a new equilibrium level more in keeping with its new social environment. In the process a number of more differentiated social units replace older, more diffuse ones.
In another sense, however, differentiation has its disequilibrating effects. When the cotton industry pressed to new levels of complexity during the industrial revolution, for instance, this process disrupted the social environment of the family economy. It initiated several long and painful sequences of differentiation which ultimately produced a more specialized version of the nuclear family and a more specialized version of the trade union.
These changes in the family division of labour had, in their turn, serious disequilibrating effects on the structure of family consumption.* They exaggerated existing dissatisfactions with consumption patterns and initiated several sequences of change which gave rise to new social units geared to consumption. Empirically these sequences resulted in a modification of the poor-laws, the evolution of the friendly society, the growth of the savings bank, and the rise of the early co-operative society. These developments conform, moreover, to the model of structural differentiation. In this chapter, therefore, we shall apply the model once more, this time to the structure of family consumption.
Most students of working-class welfare in this period have dis-____________________