Cover image for Credit card nation : the consequences of America's addiction to credit
Credit card nation : the consequences of America's addiction to credit
Manning, Robert D., 1957-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
x, 406 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Reading Level:
1570 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HG3755.8.U6 M36 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
HG3755.8.U6 M36 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Credit Card Nation is part history and part exposé of the damaging social and political consequences of America's increasing reliance on credit cards. Using original research and consumer interviews, Manning analyzes the growth of the credit card industry and its related businesses by looking at the story of its consumers--the people who use credit for convenience and those who rely on it for financial stability.In addition to providing a consumer history of credit card usage, Robert Manning analyzes the larger societal attitudes toward debt. The history of the credit card industry's expansion is one of the creation of a new class of consumers who utilize credit--and its steep interest and penalty rates--for economic survival. Manning discusses the societal toll that the "credit card nation" is placing on the young, the elderly, and all those in search of the "good life" marketed by the credit card and banking industries.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

"Over the last two decades, universal or bank credit cards have played a prominent role in the profound transformation of American attitudes toward saving and debt," states Manning, an economic sociologist. He presents what is essentially an academic paper on the history of credit cards, and what he concludes with are their evils. His research for this book includes hundreds of interviews with people whom he considers neglected voices from different social, cultural, and economic backgrounds throughout the U.S. The author is extremely critical of credit-card-issuing banks and their policies, and he is also critical of mass-marketing campaigns, which he contends powerfully influence the public's belief that short-term consumption is preferable to the pain of producing and that spending is preferable to saving. In this exploration of the dark side of debt, Manning hopes to contribute to a democratic and public discussion of the role of bank policies in everyday lives, although he probably will be preaching to the converted. --Mary Whaley

Publisher's Weekly Review

A sociology professor whose specialty is the effect of credit card debt on college students, Manning expands his focus here to encompass social attitudes toward all types of debt. Suggesting that debt leads not only to financial ruin but also to moral and social degradation, this dense, technical work is filled with jargon (chapter four, for example, is subtitled "Convenience Users and the Ideological Construction of the Moral Divide"). In the first-person interviews with college students, the subjects are rarely allowed to complete a sentence. Instead, Manning embeds phrases from the interviews into his own argument. Since we never learn more than a few facts about each interviewee (not even a last name or college affiliation), they serve as chorus to the monologue rather than adding weight or complexity to Manning's thesis. When relating facts, Manning puts quotation marks around the many terms he disagrees with, conveying his opinion without supporting evidence for his views. Loaded words substitute for exposition: people do not choose to borrow, they are "addicted to credit"; he does not deem them "borrowers," but "users"; no one simply owes moneyÄinstead, everyone is "burdened," "oppressed" or "overwhelmed" by debt, even when the debt seems small relative to their assets and income. (Feb. 2) Forecast: Manning's book may interest professional sociologists, but general readers will find it difficult to understand in some places, dogmatic and unsubstantiated elsewhere. However, given its timely topic, the book is likely to receive serious review attention, and will pick up some sales due to Manning's media appearances (he's been featured on ABC World News Tonight, CNN and elsewhere. But the book's academic gloss will keep sales from rising high, despite the millions of Americans suffering from debt overload. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

This important and enjoyable book is kaleidoscopic in scope, offering detailed analysis of the history and structure of the credit card industry, including increasing reliance of small businesses on credit cards rather than traditional bank loans. Manning (economic sociologist, Univ. of Houston Law Center) intersperses his analysis with innumerable case studies of how changing credit practices affect particular groups of people. Citicorp is at the center of this book. After a binge of disastrous loans to Third World nations and shaky real estate ventures, it salvaged its future by an enormously successful credit card operation, which in the process changed the entire landscape of the credit system. The erosion of the Puritan ethic and its replacement by an emphasis on immediate gratification is another major theme in this book. Manning shows how the credit card industry has been a major contributor to this transformation. Further, he clearly shows how the credit system has disadv antaged the most disadvantaged, who are left to rely on inordinately profitable fringe credit suppliers such as check cashing operations. Nonetheless, this book is a terrific study of a largely neglected subject. Recommended for public and academic libraries, community college through advanced research institutions. M. Perelman California State University, Chico

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
1 Can't Leave Home Without It: Consumer Credit and Debt in American Societyp. 1
2 The U.S. Triangle of Debt: Erecting the Pillars of the U.S. Debtor Societyp. 31
3 Crossroads of Debt: Citicorp and the Ascension of the Consumer Credit Cardp. 67
4 Charging for Credit (or Points or Cash): Convenience Users and the Ideology of the Moral Dividep. 99
5 Life on the Financial Edge: Maxed Out, Surfing, and Playing the Credit Card Shufflep. 125
6 Credit Cards on Campus: The Social Consequences of Student Credit Dependencyp. 159
7 Where Ace Is Not a Hardware Store: Fringe Banking and the Expansion of Second-Tier Financial Servicesp. 195
8 The Credit Card Hustle: The Commercial Credit Crunch and the Crisis of Small Businessp. 227
9 Aging into Debt: Crisis or Convenience in the Golden Years?p. 257
10 Didn't Leave Home Without It: Future Trends of the Credit Card Nationp. 291
Appendixesp. 305
Notesp. 317
Bibliographyp. 369
Indexp. 395