Redeemable Savings, or How to Become Ascetic through Consumption


During World War II, both the US and Canadian governments issued a series of propaganda posters aimed at reducing spending and redirecting private households’ financial expenditures into the general war effort. Many of those posters, developed by some of the cleverest advertisers of the time, drew on Puritanism’s most deeply rooted principle: self-restraint. One propaganda poster (distributed, in this case, by the Canadian government) succinctly exemplifies the underlying logic: as an elegant couple looks up at a gigantic elephant for sale, the caption sternly reminds them to be thrifty: “If you don’t need it … don’t buy it!” (Figure 1).

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