Discourses of thrift and consumer reasonability in Czech State-Socialist society
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Keywords (English)consumer responsibilisation, thrift
The article examines how notions of thrift, saving, and frugality were present and active in the state-socialist discourses of economic behaviour and what meaning these notions carried. The research is based on three kinds of data: the official state-socialist public discourse of economic behaviour as presented in transcripts of parliamentary speeches, household guides and manuals, and eyewitness accounts of the state-socialist era recollected in oral history interviews. Such a multi-faceted corpus of discourse data made it possible to examine factual and normative aspects of thrift in state-socialist discourses and compare them with the accounts of everyday practices and tactics that may well contradict the official discourse. The analysis reveals that (a) notions of thrift and saving were strongly present throughout the period in all discourses examined, (b) both terms underwent a semantic shift from a productive to a restrictive meaning over time, and (c) both notions were eventually publicly sidelined by the emphasis on raising revenue. Despite fading from public discourse in the late 1980s, the notion of thrift had by then become instilled in the subjective understanding of the ‘reasonable consumer’, a concept that can therefore be considered a precursor of the contemporary concept of consumer responsibilisation.