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Purpose – By tracing the history of the links of financialization to consumer behaviors and marketer actions in the twentieth century, this paper aims to show that consumer market phenomena are often shaped by the imperatives of finance.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper employs selective historical overviews, mainly focusing on the USA, of four tranches of the past century: the run up to the Great Depression; from post-Depression to the Second World War; the post-Second World War Bretton Woods system and its collapse in the 1970s; and the increasingly risk-charged last three post-Bretton Woods decades of the twentieth century.

Findings – The historical review shows that the financial sector's interest in profiting from consumer markets emerged and grew fairly early in the twentieth century, experienced some slowdown and forced retrenchment due to the military-industrial build up prior to and during the Second World War, and re-accelerated in the post-Second World War period – reaching an unsustainable risky zenith by the closing years of the century.

Practical implications – Findings and arguments from this paper can be of value to citizen and consumer advocates seeking to bringFinanzkapital activities under popular and democratic control.

Social implications – Insights from this paper should motivate us to study in greater depth how established and seemingly autonomous consumer and marketer behaviors, in the ultimate, may be guided by, and have to conform to, the dictates of financial capital.

Originality/value – The main contribution of this paper is an elaboration of how financial capitalism has shaped consumption styles and marketing practices in the last century.

Publisher Statement

This is the author's manuscript of an article that was published in volume 4, issue 3 of the Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, published by Emerald Group Publishing Limited. The final published version is available at