Debtor Nation: The History of America in Red Ink

Debtor Nation: The History of America in Red Ink

by Louis Hyman
     
 

"Debtor Nation explains how in recent decades American consumers and households got more and more access to credit at the very time they became less and less able to handle the resulting debts. The recent financial crisis and the anemic recovery from the resulting Great Recession have exposed this Achilles heel of modern finance. Louis Hyman's illuminating

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Overview

"Debtor Nation explains how in recent decades American consumers and households got more and more access to credit at the very time they became less and less able to handle the resulting debts. The recent financial crisis and the anemic recovery from the resulting Great Recession have exposed this Achilles heel of modern finance. Louis Hyman's illuminating history shows how financial innovations sponsored by government, banks, and Wall Street induced Americans to shoot themselves in the foot by trying to live beyond their means. Sadly, now the party's over."—Richard Sylla, New York University

"This revelatory book explores the hidden history of the complex web of personal credit and debt that unraveled in the recent financial crisis. Louis Hyman persuasively shows that the infrastructure of debt has been decades in the making and been driven by a perverse and often unforeseen combination of market forces and government policies. This should be required reading for students of consumer culture, the history of capitalism, and anyone who wants to know why Americans are now drowning in debt. A pathbreaking, important book."—Stephen A. Mihm, University of Georgia

"How did debt—and the interlaced institutions of finance, government, and business it inspired—become a defining feature, perhaps the defining feature, of American economic life? In this imaginatively conceived, meticulously researched, and vigorously argued book, Louis Hyman explains how modern finance reshaped American capitalism and how that prodigious, but volatile system reshaped American life from the 1920s to the present."—Bruce Schulman, Boston University

"Timely and important, Debtor Nation argues that the present American patterns of debt are the result of long-term developments since the 1920s. The author does a masterful job of placing the explosion of consumer credit since 1980 in historical perspective. The book is a must-read for U.S. historians as well as anyone interested in how Americans became addicted to borrowing."—Sheldon Garon, Princeton University

"A solid account of credit institutions in the twentieth-century United States, this book makes a useful contribution to our understanding of modern business by exploring the intersection of credit markets and government policies. Stretching from the 1910s to the 1970s, the book examines how Americans came to rely on credit to finance the good life and shows how public policies and business practices evolved to shape the operations of credit."—Meg Jacobs, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691156163
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
10/28/2012
Series:
Politics and Society in Twentieth Century America
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
392
Sales rank:
557,918
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 3.30(d)

Meet the Author

Louis Hyman is assistant professor of history at the ILR School of Cornell University.

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations ix

An Introduction to the History of Debt 1

Chapter One: Making Credit Modern: The Origins of the Debt Infrastructure in the 1920s 10

Chapter Two: Debt and Recovery: New Deal Housing Policy and the Making of National Mortgage Markets 45

Chapter Three: How Commercial Bankers Discovered Consumer Credit: The Federal Housing Administration and Personal Loan Departments, 1934-1938 73

Chapter Four: War and Credit: Government Regulation and Changing Credit Practices 98

Chapter Five: Postwar Consumer Credit: Borrowing for Prosperity 132

Chapter Six: Legitimating the Credit Infrastructure: Race, Gender, and Credit Access 173

Chapter Seven: Securing Debt in an Insecure World: Credit Cards and Capital Markets 220

Epilogue: Debt as Choice, Debt as Structure 281

Acknowledgments 289

Abbreviations 291

Notes 293

References 363

Index 365

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