Plastic Capitalism: Banks, Credit Cards, and the End of Financial Control (Hardback)
  • Plastic Capitalism: Banks, Credit Cards, and the End of Financial Control (Hardback)
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Plastic Capitalism: Banks, Credit Cards, and the End of Financial Control (Hardback)

(author)
£25.00
Hardback 416 Pages
Published: 23/07/2024
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How bankers created the modern consumer credit economy and destroyed financial stability in the process
 
“As much as it enriches our scholarship, Vanatta’s history should also inspire our policymaking.”—Carey Mott, Los Angeles Review of Books
 
American households are awash in expensive credit card debt. But where did all this debt come from? In this history of the rise of postwar American finance, Sean H. Vanatta shows how bankers created our credit card economy and, with it, the indebted nation we know today.
 
America’s consumer debt machine was not inevitable. In the years after World War II, state and federal regulations ensured that many Americans enjoyed safe banks and inexpensive credit. Bankers, though, grew restless amid restrictive rules that made profits scarce. They experimented with new services and new technologies. They settled on credit cards, and in the 1960s mailed out reams of high-interest plastic to build a debt industry from scratch.
 
In the 1960s and ’70s consumers fought back, using federal and state policy to make credit cards safer and more affordable. But bankers found ways to work around local rules. Beginning in 1980, Citibank and its peers relocated their card plans to South Dakota and Delaware, states with the weakest consumer regulations, creating “on-shore” financial havens and drawing consumers into an exploitative credit economy over which they had little control. We live in the world these bankers made.

Publisher: Yale University Press
ISBN: 9780300247343
Number of pages: 416
Dimensions: 235 x 156 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

“As much as it enriches our scholarship, Vanatta’s history should also inspire our policymaking.”—Carey Mott, Los Angeles Review of Books“How did the US make its way toward an increasingly cashless economy, where consumers overwhelmingly rely on credit and debit cards for transactions—and often wrack up substantial debt along the way? Plastic Capitalism tells the story of how banks’ efforts to navigate the landscape created by New Deal financial regulations, which were intended to keep finance small and local, ended up creating an economy where credit cards are both placeless and pervasive. Those plastic cards we carry, claiming an address in South Dakota or Delaware, tell a distinctly American story of finance, power, and politics.”—Jerry Davis, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan“Sean Vanatta’s remarkable Plastic Capitalism is the finest account we have yet of the rise of the now-ubiquitous credit card and the steady expansion of its role in American capitalism and in our own financial lives. In a narrative history that draws on deep archival research, Vanatta shows clearly how our financial technologies and economic world are built by law and politics, instead of emerging through consumer desire.”—Kimberly Phillips-Fein, author of Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics“Vanatta illuminates the complex tapestry that is the US financial system by following one important thread—the history of the credit card industry. In this way he provides a novel and compelling account of how bankers made use of our divided federal system of government to break free of the constraints imposed on them by New Deal regulation. The mountains of credit card debt under which American households have come to labor was the unhappy result.”—Naomi Lamoreaux, Yale University

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