The origins of the consumer society have long been hotly debated.
Recent approaches emphasize the role of governance in providing
the necessary context for a consumer society to take shape. This study contributes to this debate by examining the regulation of a highly degradable, insecure, and potentially dangerous commodity such as meat in the 1770-1860 period of rapid economic, political and urban transition. Examining governance in Brussels, a city consistently in the vanguard of important political, economic and
social transformations – within and beyond the market for meat – will allow us to deepen our understanding of the role of governance in
the emergence of modern consumerism, the main actors involved and the underlying ideas and principles motivating this change. Such principles include crucial elements of modern-day consumer society as the primacy of consumer interest, the rise of a welfare state concerned with its citizens’ interests, and the establishment of a (regulated) free market as the pre-eminent means of defending
these. Thus the analysis will not only elucidate shifts in economic thought and practice but also allow an empirical approach to assumed 19th-century evolutions as the expansion of state power and competences and the rise of consumer interest. Tracing such key aspects of the consumer society in late- and post-corporative Brussels will contribute to determining the role of governance in bringing about a modern consumer society in the 19th century.