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Alternative Exchanges

Alternative Exchanges: Second-Hand Circulations from the Sixteenth Century to the Present

Edited by Laurence Fontaine
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Alternative Exchanges
    Book Description:

    Exchanges have always had more than economic significance: values circulate and encounters become institutionalized. This volume explores the changing meaning of the circulation of second-hand goods from the Renaissance to today, and thereby examines the blurring of boundaries between market, gifts, and charity. It describes the actors of the market - official entities such as corporations, recognized professions, and established markets but also the subterranean circulation that develops around the need for money. The complex layers that not only provide for numerous intermediaries but also include the many men and women who, as sellers or buyers, use these circulations on countless occasions are also examined.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-008-1
    Subjects: History, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)
    Laurence Fontaine

    The circulation of used or second-hand objects has attracted little attention from the scientific community,¹ even though it was and still is central to a number of important economic activities, and lies at the heart of symbolic interests, revealing struggles and identity issues within different societies. In Europe second-hand circuits dominated the garment and furnishings markets until the nineteenth century. They were also important for the art, clothing, paper, construction and financial markets. While their economic importance has dwindled in developed countries today, it is still by no means negligible in many non-European countries; and such items remain excellent indicators...

  6. 1 Second-hand Dealers in the Early Modern Low Countries: Institutions, Markets and Practices
    (pp. 13-42)
    Harald Deceulaer

    Saying that markets and consumption have received a lot of attention in the last two decades in history, economics and politics is not a very original statement. However, the functioning of a “market” is not a self-evident or unproblematic phenomenon, as the concrete acts of buying and selling necessarily involve processes of acquiring information, assessment of quality, contracting, trust, credit or deceit. If possible, this applies even more strongly for the second-hand market. As most new commodities were rather expensive, and as the majority of inhabitants of pre-modern Europe owned so little that their livelihood was highly insecure,¹ second-hand goods...

  7. 2 Using Things as Money: An Example from Late Renaissance Rome
    (pp. 43-60)
    Renata Ago

    The aim of this chapter is to show the other side of the market of second-hand goods, focusing on the signification and meaning of the objects themselves, rather than investigating the parties involved in the trade. The idea is to reconstruct the sorts of feelings and emotions that connect things to their owners, rather than analyzing the economic strategies that lie behind the exchange of goods and the social relationships that make them possible. The approach I intend to adopt will therefore consider arrangements that are not related to the need of overcoming meagerness, of making ends meet, or of...

  8. 3 Prostitution and the Circulation of Second-hand Goods in Early Modern Rome
    (pp. 61-75)
    Tessa Storey

    Prostitution was a common enough phenomenon in late medieval and early modern Italian society. Demographic analysis of the parish records for Rome, for example, shows that in the early decades of the seventeenth century the minimum number of women officially known as prostitutes oscillated at around 1,200. Contemporary responses to prostitution were fairly homogeneous, and whether one looks at sources ranging from canon law to civic legislation, from traveller’s accounts to literary portrayals there are a number of recurring topoi. These included the problem of sexual promiscuity; the ever present threat of the “mal francese” or syphilis; the danger...

  9. 4 “The Magazine of All Their Pillaging”: Armies as Sites of Second-hand Exchanges during the French Wars of Religion
    (pp. 76-96)
    Brian Sandberg

    The inhabitants of the southern French city of Montauban emerged from their city walls in mid-November 1621, as the army that had been besieging them for months retreated slowly out of sight.

    The besieged jumped down from the hornworks, pursuing from the river bank the last of those retreating … others went to the gabions, barricades, and trenches of the enemies to take all the spoils they could find, all those who were in the town notified of this retreat came there in a crowd – young and old men and women without distinction of sex ran up to have part...

  10. 5 The Exchange of Second-hand Goods between Survival Strategies and “Business” in Eighteenth-century Paris
    (pp. 97-114)
    Laurence Fontaine

    Apart from the seminal work of Daniel Roche, studies of the town under theancien régimehave scarcely touched upon the ways in which money circulated on a daily basis. However, the economy at that time was hardly controlled by institutions at all. While the majority of families had to juggle with irregular incomes to meet their daily needs and to prepare for the hard knocks of life, sudden contingencies, sickness and unemployment, many countries such as France did not have, prior to the nineteenth century, institutions specializing in banking, insurance or financial planning. Added to the lack of financial...

  11. 6 Uses of the Used: The Conventions of Renewing and Exchanging Goods in French Provincial Aristocracy
    (pp. 115-126)
    Valérie Pietri

    In the Frenchancien régimeperiod, resales and exchanges of second-hand goods were vital to economic life. Eighteenth-century economic structures revolved around the circulation and exchange of rare consumer goods (more so, in any case, than in the later industrial and post-industrial consumer cultures).However, this notion of rareness must be thoroughly explored, since evidence of accelerated consumption and renewal of consumer goods, above all during the second half of the eighteenth century, contradicts the hypothesis of a slowdown in productivity. This new mobility was first adopted by the elite, from the court aristocracy to the rural elites, before reaching lower...

  12. 7 The Scope and Sructure of the Nineteenth-century Second-hand Trade in the Parisian Clothes Market
    (pp. 127-151)
    Manuel Charpy

    Although the second-hand market affects all other areas of nineteenth-century trade, and appears frequently in analyses of consumption of this period,¹ a study of this market has not been conducted to date. The absence of research in this area comes as a surprise considering it allows valuable reading of consumer habits which can (a) go beyond the usual questions of what was fashionable and unfashionable, and (b) avoid conflating consumption with production in this area. Among the many sub-areas of trade, the clothes market is a choice category for such a study because it thrived in the very heart of...

  13. 8 “What Goes ’Round Comes ’Round”: Second-hand Clothing, Furniture and Tools in Working-class Lives in the Interwar USA
    (pp. 152-164)
    Susan Porter Benson

    Working-class family economies in the interwar USA depended heavily on second-hand goods as one of many expedients to stretch insufficient resources.¹ Used items could offer an indirect entry to consumer culture, stretch a tight budget to supply comforts not otherwise available, provide both investment and use value, and enhance wage-earning possibilities. I examine here three main streams of circulation of second-hand goods: of clothing, which was primarily for its direct use; of household goods such as furniture, which served as investment goods; and of tools, which helped in making a living.

    The United States entered what is usually regarded as...

  14. 9 Moving On: Overlooked Aspects of Modern Collecting
    (pp. 165-185)
    Jackie Goode

    We don’t necessarily need to know a great deal about painting to share the shock of the art world reported above. Similarly, the extent to which Michael Landy’s act of disposal constituted the breaking of a taboo is evidenced by the fact that “he became the subject of sermons on the morality of consumerism; his work was attacked for its wanton destruction; and a priest and psychiatrist offered counseling.” Such responses to acts of destruction of material objects are indicative of the strength of relatively unexplored feelings surrounding the goods each of us acquires in our lives, and, in particular,...

  15. 10 The Second-hand Car Market as a Form of Resistance
    (pp. 186-207)
    Bernard Jullien

    In seeking to explain consumption behaviors, much research in the area of social sciences is based on a presumption that consumers have preexisting preferences that they use to evaluate alternatives in choosing what to purchase. Mary Douglas has proposed an alternative in which consumption is based not on preferences, but on their opposite. She explains this as follows:

    Inquiries about consumption patterns have focused on wants. The questions have been about why people want what they buy. Whereas, most shoppers will agree, people do not know what they want, but they are very clear about what they do not want....

  16. 11 Utopia Postponed? The Rise and Fall of Barter Markets in Argentina, 1995–2004
    (pp. 208-220)
    Ruth Pearson

    Barter – the exchange of goods and services outside the formal economy – is an activity which, it is generally assumed, has long since been surpassed in the vast majority of the economies in the contemporary world. Not only in industrialized economies but in developing countries also, where money has become the standard instrument of facilitating economic exchange between people and enterprises, national – and international – currencies that operate as the generalized medium of exchange have become a standard feature of economic activity, from highly internationalized trading to local food or produce markets. Even poor rural households, which until the mid-twentieth century produced...

  17. 12 Charity, Commerce, Consumption: The International Second-hand Clothing Trade at the Turn of the Millennium – Focus on Zambia
    (pp. 221-234)
    Karen Tranberg Hansen

    The international second-hand clothing trade grew rapidly toward the end of the twentieth century, fueled by the opening up of markets in many Third World countries and Eastern Europe. Today, Africa is the single largest market for this export from the West. This chapter provides a brief overview of shifts in the international second-hand clothing trade from the post-World War Two years and on through the present, identifying some of the actors involved: major charitable organizations who receive donated clothing, textile recyclers/graders, who collect and sort surplus clothing for domestic and export markets, commercial middlemen, brokers and shippers. Turning the...

  18. Conclusion
    (pp. 235-243)
    Laurence Fontaine

    Far from being supposedly marginal, these essays allow us to see the true economic, social and symbolic importance of the circulation of second-hand goods. This book has focused mainly on garments, which were the major goods of these circulations. Personal belongings, luxury objects, arms and lastly cars have also appeared in the chapters, but we lack analyses of other second-hand items that were in circulation. If the market for books has already been partly studied, we know very little of the market in art and of the re-use of materials in the building industries. In fact, categories of second-hand objects...

  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 244-262)
  20. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 263-264)
  21. Index
    (pp. 265-270)