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date: 16 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Monetization, which describes the process whereby money became the dominant means of exchange in developing commercial societies, is an economic development whose profound social, political, and cultural consequences are not yet well understood. The monetization of household economic life elevated practices that once affected only the wealthy – Fan Li's ‘golden rules for business success’ – to core competencies of living, mandatory for everyone. Reflecting on the scholarship that has examined saving and spending, this article examines consumption and why historians of consumer culture have not given the financial affairs of consumers the attention the subject deserves. The historical work that has been done, though sparse, amply demonstrates the rich potential of the financial arts for generating significant problem areas for research. Few other subjects in the glittering universe of consumption lead more directly to the largest questions we can ask about desire, virtue, and the construction of the modern self. The article also considers the history of thrift, money management, and financialization.

Keywords: money, consumption, saving, spending, thrift, financial arts, financialization, money management, desire, virtue

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