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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.
From the Back Cover:
"At last--an accessible and scholarly history of the American consumer's best friend and worst enemy."--James Grant, author of Money of the Mind and editor of Grant's Interest Rate Observer
"Lendol Calder is the first scholar in the field of modern U.S. social history to describe and analyze the century-long (1820s through 1920s) evolution of the incidence of debt, the availability of credit, and the prevailing attitudes toward both, as keystones to understanding twentieth-century changes in U.S. consumer cultureÖ. The quality of writing in the book is exceptional."--Otis A. Pease, University of Washington
"Calder has produced a book that will not only add to what we know about 'consumer culture,' but will also force business historians to rethink the relative importance to the rise of consumerism of management innovations and advertising. Calder shows clearly that there is a third source of consumerism: installment credit."--William R. Childs, Ohio State University
Title: Financing the American Dream
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Book Condition: New
Book Description Princeton University Press, 1999. Book Condition: Good. Former Library book. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP2633895
Book Description Princeton University Press, 1999. Book Condition: Good. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP74603033
Book Description Princeton University Press, 1999. Book Condition: Good. Ships from Reno, NV. Former Library book. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP85729734
Book Description Princeton University Press, 1999. Book Condition: Very Good. Former Library book. Great condition for a used book! Minimal wear. Bookseller Inventory # GRP13082690
Book Description Princeton University Press. Hardcover. Book Condition: GOOD. book was well loved but cared for. Possible ex-library copy with all the usual markings and stickers. Some light textual notes, highlighting and underling. Bookseller Inventory # 2784345980
Book Description Princeton University Press. Hardcover. Book Condition: GOOD. Gently used may contain ex-library markings, possibly has some minor highlighting, textual notations, and or underlining. Text is still easily readable. Bookseller Inventory # 2784775180
Book Description Princeton University Press. Hardcover. Book Condition: Good. 069105827X Ex-library, usual wear and stickers. Please view our store policies for all shipping and condition grades, thank you. Bookseller Inventory # 035156
Book Description Princeton University Press. Hardcover. Book Condition: GOOD. Good clean copy with no missing pages might be an ex library copy; Possibly may have minor marginal notes and or highlighting. Bookseller Inventory # 2795815968
Book Description Princeton University Press. Book Condition: Acceptable. Former Library book. Hardcover acceptable The item is fairly worn but still readable. Signs of wear include aesthetic issues such as scratches, worn covers, damaged binding. The item may have identifying markings on it or show other signs of previous use. May have page creases, creased spine, bent cover or markings inside. Packed with care, shipped promptly. Bookseller Inventory # J-03-0596
Book Description Book Condition: Good. Book Condition: Good. Bookseller Inventory # 97806910582764.0