MEG JACOBS. Pocketbook Politics: Economic Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America. (Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America.) Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005. Pp. xii, 349. $35.00. Hardback. ISBN: 9780691130415.
In Pocketbook Politics, Meg Jacobs—Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of History at Columbia University, New York—attempts to rescue modern American consumerism studies from its popular association with cultural and social history while “reperiodizing [liberal, political] reform in the twentieth century.” Jacobs focuses on the socio-political history of “purchasing power” from the Progressive Era at the turn of the century to the Nixon administration of the 1970s. To Jacobs, “purchasing power” refers to the collective ability of working and middle-class Americans to purchase goods, and therefore become “economic citizens,” based upon existing relationships between prices and wages. Jacobs believes that understanding appeals to consumer purchasing power, or “pocketbook politics,” is necessary for re-evaluating the rise and fall of New Deal liberalism. In a sense, Pocketbook Politics tries to give a lost coalition of consumers, retailers, unionists, and labor activists credit for the liberal policies of the twentieth century that sought price and wage regulation in the face of severe inflation.