Consumption and Market
Chapter 3 illustrates a central argument of the book: Handmade cloth competed against machine-made cloth not because it was cheaper but because it embodied qualities that consumers valued and that machines could not deliver except at a high cost. The decline of the weaving industry between 1820 and 1880 came from a fall of those cloths that lacked enough distinctiveness against the machine-made cloth. The revival to follow shows growing demand for clothes that did carry distinctive qualities. These boundaries, however, were not stable, but threatened by preference shifts and a fall in the costs of trade and integration of markets. The chapter shows how weavers adapted to these changes.