The politics of consumption and labour history

Nikola Balnave*, Greg Patmore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Australian labour historians have generally concentrated on exploring the politics of production rather than of consumption. The behaviour, actions and perspectives of consumers, however, are just as important to our understanding of society as are those of producers. This article undertakes a general review of historical debates in the Australian literature concerning the concept of consumption. It then provides an overview of the Australian experience based on primary and secondary research. Two issues are of particular interest. The first is the collective response of workers and other groups to the issues associated with consumption including the prices and the quality of goods and services. The article will primarily focus on co-operatives as the collective response. The second issue is the way in which employers attempt to control consumption through a range of strategies including company stores and canteens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-166
Number of pages22
JournalLabour History
Issue number100
Publication statusPublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes


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