The lure of consumer credit

‘A curious and sort of subconscious temptation’  | 

The first chapter explores how a device-oriented approach to the study of economic life might help us understand why people’s consumer credit borrowing practices become unmanageable. It focuses in particular on the archetypal consumer credit device: the credit card. This mundane monetary object, it is argued, has long posed particular calculative challenges for borrowers. Drawing on both historical evidence and contemporary accounts from defaulting borrowers, the chapter examines how borrowers’ attachments to consumer credit products come about, arguing that it is in part because of the ability of these products to ease life, without―at least for a period―overly disrupting it. It also seeks to provide a contribution to how we might understand the role played in social life by monetary objects of all kinds. To help describe some of these processes, I also introduce the work of the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead and the role played by what he calls ‘lures for feeling’.

[Text adapted from the introduction of Lived Economies of Default]