'Mastering the possibilities' : a sociology of credit, consumption, risk and identity in the United States

Marron, Donncha (2006) 'Mastering the possibilities' : a sociology of credit, consumption, risk and identity in the United States. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b2461429


This thesis sociologically analyses the development of consumer credit within the United States and the forms through which it has been governed and regulated. It is demonstrated that, as the consumption of goods and services came to play an increasingly important role in the mediation of social life during the first half of the 20th century, consumer credit grew in scale and form, funded by mainstream finance capital. As articulated by economists, such credit was justified as ‘productive’, an essential element in the facilitation of mass consumption now seen as a fundamental corollary of mass production. The state, through legislation and new initiatives, sought to protect, direct and manage the market for credit in the interests of nurturing a wider social wellbeing. It is suggested that by the 1920s the instalment plan, underpinned by the ‘conditional sale’ contract form, represented a new, paradigmatic form of credit. With it, lenders channelled credit to consumers through carefully calibrated, bureau-legal processes which served to discipline and regulate credit use and repayments to prevent default losses. From the 1960s, with the cultural critique of mass society and the rise of new modalities of consumption concerned with lifestyle and self-identity, the widened size and scope of credit is demonstrated. Tracing the institutional development of the credit card, it is contended that this created a new paradigm of credit as a personalised, mobile resource to be drawn upon by individuals in the increasingly autonomous, market-derived living of their lives. Permeated by the political rationality of neo-liberalism, it is elaborated how the state’s regulation of credit has shifted on the basis of its perceived responsibility to promote this individualised, ‘enterprising’ mode of life.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HG Finance
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Reith, Gerda
Date of Award: 2006
Depositing User: Mrs Marie Cairney
Unique ID: glathesis:2006-5521
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2014 12:42
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2014 12:43
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/5521

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