WWII Ration Book

Below are my great-grandparents’ ration books from World War II. These books contained, and some still contain, stamps and tokens for certain items such as meat, sugar, and canned foods. This system was established because food was in short supply for a number of reasons. Food rationing created a fair system for distributing food that was in short supply and ensured that all citizens would have enough to eat during the war. 

“Whereas physical things can exist unperceived, social “things” like laws, prices, prime ministers, and ration-books are created by personal attitudes. (Remove the attitudes of food officials, shop-keepers, housewives, etc., towards ration-books and they shrivel into bits of cardboard.)”[1]

The doctrine of methodological individualism holds that social phenomena can be explained by the attitudes of individuals. When individuals hold beliefs in collective entities, certain social constructs form. Just as money has no inherent value, food stamps only held value because individuals attributed value to them.

This same idea held in our discussions about racism and discrimination. Individuals hold attitudes toward the colors black and white. A collective belief forms and black becomes analogous to inferior, white to superior. The metaphysical world attempts to explain the physical world, giving way to racism and discrimination. Though these colors do not mean anything in themselves, collective attitudes assign values to them. It is impossible to break these racist ideologies when people discriminate against others solely on the basis of their different visible morphological traits. Just as ration tokens and books would have been worthless if we did not hold certain attitudes toward them, racism would be nonexistent if we never formed collective attitudes that deemed non-whites as inferior.

  1. J.W.N Watkins, ‘Ideal Types and historical explanation’ in O’Neill (ed.), Modes of Individualism and Collectivism, p.150.