Who Makes Cents is a monthly program, sponsored by Verso Books, devoted to producing engaging stories that explain how capitalism has changed over time. In interviews with historians and social and cultural critics primarily, though not exclusively, focused on U.S. history, the show highlights the political and economic changes that have created the present. Each episode gives voice to the people who have shaped capitalism — by making the rules or by breaking them, by creating economic structures or by resisting them.
For decades, consumers of second-hand goods have argued that purchasing used items allows buyers to opt out of capitalism, saving money and environmental resources in the process. As one thrifty advice blog puts it, “Buying used goods cuts down on manufacturing demands and keeps more items out of the landfill!” But what exactly is the relationship between the purchase and sale of second-hand goods and capitalism more broadly?
On this episode, Jennifer Le Zotte tells us about the sale and consumption of second-hand clothing in the twentieth century.
Jennifer Le Zotte is Assistant Professor of History and Material Culture at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. She is the author of From Goodwill to Grunge: A History of Secondhand Styles and Alternative Economies.
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Betsy A. Beasley is Assistant Professor of American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her book project, Expert Capital: Houston and the Making of a Service Empire, examines the cultural, political, and economic development of the globally integrated economy through the lens of the oilfield services industry. Her work has been published in Diplomatic History and is forthcoming in Radical History Review, and she cohosts and produces Who Makes Cents: A History of Capitalism Podcast with David Stein. Read more about her work here.
David P. Stein is a Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Claremont McKenna College. He specializes in the interconnections between social movements, public policy, and political economy. His first book, Fearing Inflation, Inflating Fears: The Civil Rights Struggle for Full Employment and the Rise of the Carceral State, 1929–1986, will be published by the University of North Carolina Press. He co-hosts and produces Who Makes Cents: A History of Capitalism Podcast with Betsy Beasley. Read more about his work here.