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Financing the American Dream 3rd Edition Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691058276
ISBN-10: 069105827X
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Debunking what he calls the "myth of lost economic virtue"Athe notion that Americans lived debt-free until the advent of consumer credit gave rise to a kind of collective hedonism corrosive to traditional moral valuesACalder traces the uses of credit and historical attitudes toward debt back to the mid-19th century. These attitudes have always been contradictory, according to Calder, who teaches history at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. Money-ethic literature of the Victorian era, for instance, distinguished "productive credit," used to finance labor or business (a popular epigram of the period asserted that "one never becomes rich until he is in debt"), from "consumptive credit," exemplified by "shivering youths who pawned overcoats to pay gambling debts [and] sallow New York dandies with showy chains on their vest." The watershed in the history of consumer credit, according to Calder, was the 1920s, when a new method of credit, the installment plan, was popularized and legitimized by the vibrant automobile industry. Calder is at his best in these two historical periods, drawing extensively on anecdotal and literary evidence to create a lively narrative. But as Calder notes throughout his book, debt has always remained a private affair, and the hard numbers behind these trends were never collected. The absence of statistical support makes his contention that the consumer credit culture has promoted thrift and discipline less persuasive. The title is also misleading, as Calder has little to say about the history of credit in the post-World War II years and beyond. Illustrations.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This fascinating but scholarly examination of America's love affair with consumerism and consumer debt shows readers when and how the American Dream turned into what Max Weber called the "iron cage." Focusing on the years between 1890 and 1940, Calder (history, Augustana Coll.) shows how the legal, institutional, and moral bases of today's consumer credit model were established. In an epilog, Calder brings the story up to the present. Using a variety of primary sources for his research (notes are included for each chapter), he keeps a human face on his tale of credit relations. A colorful narrative style and clear, strong arguments will help readers understand this aspect of American social and economic life.ASusan C. Awe, Univ. of New Mexico Lib., Albuquerque
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 3rd Edition edition (February 22, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 069105827X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691058276
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,886,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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