Past scholarship on the culture of nationalism has largely focused on the ways in which institutions utilize memory and history to construct national identity. Laura C. Nelson challenges these assumptions with regard to South Korea, arguing that its identity has been as much tied to tions of the future as rooted in a recollection of the past. Measured Excess offers an analysis of the ways in which South Korean ecomic development strategies have reshaped the country's national identity - giving specific attention to the manner in which women, as the primary agents of consumption, have been affected by this transformation. Following a backlash against consumerism in the late 1980s, the government spearheaded a programme of frugality that eschewed imported goods and foreign travel in favour of strengthening South Korea's national identity. Consumption - with its focus on immediate gratification - threatened those future-oriented aspects of the state's discourse of national unity. In response to this perceived danger, Nelson asserts, the government cast women as the group whose excessive desires for material goods were endangering the nation.
Laura C. Nelson is an associate at MDRC, a nonprofit research organization, where she currently focuses on poverty, employment, and social policy in the United States.