Debtor Nation: The History of America in Red Ink

Princeton University Press
1
Free sample

Before the twentieth century, personal debt resided on the fringes of the American economy, the province of small-time criminals and struggling merchants. By the end of the century, however, the most profitable corporations and banks in the country lent money to millions of American debtors. How did this happen? The first book to follow the history of personal debt in modern America, Debtor Nation traces the evolution of debt over the course of the twentieth century, following its transformation from fringe to mainstream--thanks to federal policy, financial innovation, and retail competition.

How did banks begin making personal loans to consumers during the Great Depression? Why did the government invent mortgage-backed securities? Why was all consumer credit, not just mortgages, tax deductible until 1986? Who invented the credit card? Examining the intersection of government and business in everyday life, Louis Hyman takes the reader behind the scenes of the institutions that made modern lending possible: the halls of Congress, the boardrooms of multinationals, and the back rooms of loan sharks. America's newfound indebtedness resulted not from a culture in decline, but from changes in the larger structure of American capitalism that were created, in part, by the choices of the powerful--choices that made lending money to facilitate consumption more profitable than lending to invest in expanded production.


From the origins of car financing to the creation of subprime lending, Debtor Nation presents a nuanced history of consumer credit practices in the United States and shows how little loans became big business.

Read more

About the author

Louis Hyman is assistant professor of history at the ILR School of Cornell University.
Read more
5.0
1 total
Loading...

Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
Read more
Published on
Jan 3, 2011
Read more
Pages
392
Read more
ISBN
9781400838400
Read more
Language
English
Read more
Genres
Business & Economics / Economic History
Business & Economics / Finance / General
History / Modern / 20th Century
History / United States / 20th Century
Read more
Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
Read more
Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
Read more
Eligible for Family Library

Reading information

Smartphones and Tablets

Install the Google Play Books app for Android and iPad/iPhone. It syncs automatically with your account and allows you to read online or offline wherever you are.

Laptops and Computers

You can read books purchased on Google Play using your computer's web browser.

eReaders and other devices

To read on e-ink devices like the Sony eReader or Barnes & Noble Nook, you'll need to download a file and transfer it to your device. Please follow the detailed Help center instructions to transfer the files to supported eReaders.
Once there was a golden age of American thrift, when citizens lived sensibly within their means and worked hard to stay out of debt. The growing availability of credit in this century, however, has brought those days to an end--undermining traditional moral virtues such as prudence, diligence, and the delay of gratification while encouraging reckless consumerism. Or so we commonly believe. In this engaging and thought-provoking book, Lendol Calder shows that this conception of the past is in fact a myth.

Calder presents the first book-length social and cultural history of the rise of consumer credit in America. He focuses on the years between 1890 and 1940, when the legal, institutional, and moral bases of today's consumer credit were established, and in an epilogue takes the story up to the present. He draws on a wide variety of sources--including personal diaries and letters, government and business records, newspapers, advertisements, movies, and the words of such figures as Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, and P. T. Barnum--to show that debt has always been with us. He vigorously challenges the idea that consumer credit has eroded traditional values. Instead, he argues, monthly payments have imposed strict, externally reinforced disciplines on consumers, making the culture of consumption less a playground for hedonists than an extension of what Max Weber called the "iron cage" of disciplined rationality and hard work.


Throughout, Calder keeps in clear view the human face of credit relations. He re-creates the Dickensian world of nineteenth-century pawnbrokers, takes us into the dingy backstairs offices of loan sharks, into small-town shops and New York department stores, and explains who resorted to which types of credit and why. He also traces the evolving moral status of consumer credit, showing how it changed from a widespread but morally dubious practice into an almost universal and generally accepted practice by World War II. Combining clear, rigorous arguments with a colorful, narrative style, Financing the American Dream will attract a wide range of academic and general readers and change how we understand one of the most important and overlooked aspects of American social and economic life.

The untold history of the surprising origins of the "gig economy" --how deliberate decisions made by consultants and CEOs in the 50s and 60s upended the stability of the workplace and the lives of millions of working men and women in postwar America.

Every working person in the United States asks the same question, how secure is my job? For a generation, roughly from 1945 to 1970, business and government leaders embraced a vision of an American workforce rooted in stability. But over the last fifty years, job security has cratered as the postwar institutions that insulated us from volatility--big unions, big corporations, powerful regulators--have been swept aside by a fervent belief in "the market." Temp tracks the surprising transformation of an ethos which favored long-term investment in work (and workers) to one promoting short-term returns. A series of deliberate decisions preceded the digital revolution and upended the longstanding understanding of what a corporation, or a factory, or a shop, was meant to do.

Temp tells the story of the unmaking of American work through the experiences of those on the inside: consultants and executives, temps and office workers, line workers and migrant laborers. It begins in the sixties, with economists, consultants, business and policy leaders who began to shift the corporation from a provider of goods and services to one whose sole purpose was to maximize profit--an ideology that brought with it the risk-taking entrepreneur and the shareholder revolution and changed the very definition of a corporation.

With Temp, Hyman explains one of the nation's most immediate crises. Uber are not the cause of insecurity and inequality in our country, and neither is the rest of the gig economy. The answer goes deeper than apps, further back than downsizing, and contests the most essential assumptions we have about how our businesses should work.
Consuming with a conscience is one of the fastest growing forms of political participation worldwide. Every day we make decisions about how to spend our money and, for the socially conscious, these decisions matter. Political consumers "buy green" for the environment or they "buy pink" to combat breast cancer. They boycott Taco Bell to support migrant workers or Burger King to save the rainforest.
But can we overcome the limitations of consumer identity, the conservative pull of consumer choice, co-optation by corporate marketers, and other pitfalls of consumer activism in order to marshal the possibilities of consumer power? Can we, quite literally, shop for change? Shopping for Change brings together the historical and contemporary perspectives of academics and activists to show readers what has been possible for consumer activists in the past and what might be possible for today's consumer activists.Contributors
Kyle Asquith, University of Windsor; Dawson Barrett, Del Mar College; Lawrence Black, University of York; Madeline Brambilla, Northeastern University; Joshua Carreiro, Springfield Technical Community College, Springfield, MA; H. Louise Davis, Miami University; Jeffrey Demsky, San Bernardino Valley College; Tracey Deutsch, University of Minnesota–Twin Cities; Mara Einstein, Queens College, CUNY; Bart Elmore, University of Alabama; Sarah Elvins, University of Manitoba; Daniel Faber, Northeastern University; Julie Guard, University of Manitoba; Louis Hyman, ILR School, Cornell University; Meredith Katz, Virginia Commonwealth University; Randall Kaufman, Miami Dade College–Homestead Campus; Larry Kirsh, IMR Health Economics, Portland, OR; Katrina Lacher, University of Central Oklahoma; Bettina Liverant, University of Calgary; Amy Lubitow, Portland State University; Robert N. Mayer, University of Utah; Michelle McDonald, Stockton University; Wendy Wiedenhoft Murphy, John Carroll University; Mark W. Robbins, Del Mar College;
Jessica Stewart, Cornell University;Joseph Tohill, York University and Ryerson University; Allison Ward, Queen's University and McMaster University; Philip Wight, Brandeis University
©2018 GoogleSite Terms of ServicePrivacyDevelopersArtistsAbout Google
By purchasing this item, you are transacting with Google Payments and agreeing to the Google Payments Terms of Service and Privacy Notice.