© 2009

Consumer Credit in the United States

A Sociological Perspective from the 19th Century to the Present

  • Authors

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. Donncha Marron
    Pages 1-16
  3. Donncha Marron
    Pages 79-98
  4. Donncha Marron
    Pages 99-114
  5. Donncha Marron
    Pages 115-139
  6. Donncha Marron
    Pages 141-160
  7. Donncha Marron
    Pages 161-173
  8. Donncha Marron
    Pages 193-210
  9. Donncha Marron
    Pages 211-217
  10. Back Matter
    Pages 219-260

About this book


It is commonly imagined that in recent years the rampant growth of consumer credit has lured American consumers into a crippling state of indebtedness, a state that has upended old cultural values of Puritan thrift and stimulated a frenzy of consumption. Drawing on the sociological concept of government and informed by a historical perspective, Marron presents a much more complex and nuanced reality. From its early antecedents in nineteenth century salary lending and instalment selling, she shows how the emergence and growth of consumer credit in the United States have always been subject to shifting regimes of control and regulation.


identity society sociology

About the authors

DONNCHA MARRON is Lecturer in Sociology in the School of Applied Social Studies at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK

Bibliographic information


"Americans today are more likely to monitor their credit report than their savings account passbook.How this happened and what it means is brilliantly analyzed here, the best and most comprehensive overview of consumer credit in the U.S. that I know.Attending to what Foucault called the conduct of conduct, Marron shows how lenders, borrowers, and the state have come to operate within rules and procedures shaped by stringent neoliberal moral imperatives promoting personal peak performance and self-governance.Carefully researched, richly contextualized, and full of fresh insights on subjects such as the rise of subprime lending and lenders new technologies of risk and uncertainty, Marron s ultimate contribution may well be to show how and in what sense consumer credit has become a basic building material for the construction of the self." - Lendol Calder, Professor of History, Augustana College, and Author of Financing the American Dream: A Cultural History of Consumer Credit

"A fascinating and important book that succeeds admirably in that most difficult of tasks: casting new light on a topic - credit - that both is central to modern life, and has been endlessly and tiresomely re-examined. Rather than pursing the nature of credit in worn-out terms of the unstable growth of capitalism or the moral decline of the individual, Marron shows that credit has become a critical element in the formation of the late modern self. It is now one of the ways in which individuals create and reshape their public characters and personal identities through the exercise of choice and discipline - not in the familiar Victorian manner of thrift and self denial but, appropriately to the twenty-first century, through disciplined spending and consumption. A significant contribution to social theory, it is equally a book that economists and commentators on everyday life should pay close attention to." - Pat O Malley, Professorial Research Fellow, Faculty of Law,University of Sydney, Australia

"I am enormously enthusiastic about this book. Marron has produced a fine volume; it is an exemplary academic contribution on a topic that has recently become prominent. The book is well written, and the prominence of its topic will mean a considerable readership, not just amongst academics but at least to some degree amongst a wider public." - Donald MacKenzie, Professor of Sociology, University of Edinburgh, U.K.