Monday, February 06, 2012

[IWS] BORROW: THE AMERICAN WAY OF DEBT [New Book] [January 2012]

IWS Documented News Service


Institute for Workplace Studies----------------- Professor Samuel B. Bacharach

School of Industrial & Labor Relations-------- Director, Institute for Workplace Studies

Cornell University

16 East 34th Street, 4th floor---------------------- Stuart Basefsky

New York, NY 10016 -------------------------------Director, IWS News Bureau



Random House, Inc. (Vintage)


Borrow: The American Way of Debt

Written by Louis Hyman

Imprint: Vintage

Format: Trade Paperback

Pub Date: January 2012

Price: $15.00

Can. Price: $18.00

ISBN: 978-0-307-74168-4 (0-307-74168-0)

Pages: 304



about this book

In this lively history of consumer debt in America, economic historian Louis Hyman demonstrates that today’s problems are not as new as we think.


Borrow examines how the rise of consumer borrowing—virtually unknown before the twentieth century—has altered our culture and economy. Starting in the years before the Great Depression, increased access to money raised living standards but also introduced unforeseen risks. As lending grew more and more profitable, it displaced funds available for business borrowing, setting our economy on an unsustainable course. Told through the vivid stories of individuals and institutions affected by these changes, Borrow charts the collision of commerce and culture in twentieth-century America, giving an historical perspective on what is new—and what is not—in today’s economic turmoil.



“The story of how Americans learned to love debt—and became dangerously addicted to it. Anyone who has ever wondered how we got into the mess we are now in must read this powerful book.” —Lizabeth Cohen, author of A Consumers’ Republic


“Informed and articulate. . . . An essential story of the American economy. . . . [Hyman] comprehensively examines the role of debt in shaping the American economy, as well as the rise and recent precipitous decline of the nation’s middle class. . . . A critical academic investigation into an obscure arena of American historiography that has largely been neglected. But it is also an accessible story concerning a timely economic reality of today’s American experience.” —Newark Star-Ledger


“Stocked with colorful personalities and trenchant insights, Hyman’s lucid, entertaining, and timely treatise illuminates the murky processes by which debt became the troubled center of economic life.” —Publishers Weekly


“An evenhanded account aimed at the general reader baffled by today’s economic crisis. From Model-Ts to TVs to McMansions, Hyman uncovers the credit story behind all the glittering prizes and offers a prescription to prevent the American Dream from turning into the American Nightmare.” —Kirkus Reviews


“We learn from historian Hyman that when debt became a commodity to be bought and sold, it enabled the growth of the twentieth-century economy. Americans increasingly relied on expected future income from wages rather than cash to make consumer purchases. The author traces consumer debt beginning in the 1910s and through the 1920s, when personal loans became legal and mortgages were in demand. After WWII, consumption continued to be financed by debt, particularly television sets. Returning veterans could borrow easily through the VA loan program, and retailers developed revolving-credit programs. As the century progressed, we learn about the rise of discount stores over department stores, loans financed by issuing corporate debt, securitization, and credit cards. Hyman indicates that although policymakers declare the worst of our current financial crisis ended in mid-2009, important causes continue, and he concludes, ‘Debt, along with every other aspect of capitalism, is something that we have created and have the capacity to master.’ This is an excellent book.” —Booklist


About the Author


Louis Hyman attended Columbia University, where he received a BA in history and mathematics. A former Fulbright scholar and a consultant at McKinsey & Co., he received his PhD in American history in 2007 from Harvard University. He is currently an assistant professor in Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, where he teaches history.




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