There are many ways to define the Enlightenment, and identifying a distinct set of characteristically Enlightenment ideas is notoriously difficult. Though dispute exists over the boundaries of what might properly claim inclusion in the Enlightenment, its core identity is relatively uncontested. The Enlightenment was a movement devoted to rational meliorism. It was committed to the notion that collective application of reason could improve the conditions of life. Distinctive styles of consumption and debate on consumption formed an important part of that movement.

The histories of consumption and the Enlightenment intersect in two domains. New sites of consumption, in particular the coffeehouse and the salon, as well as new objects of consumption, such as journals and newspapers, offered the material ground for the Enlightenment as a social ...

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