Consumer Culture and Society offers an introduction to the study of consumerism and mass consumption from a sociological perspective. It examines what we buy, how and where we consume, the meanings attached to the things we purchase, and the social forces that enable and constrain consumer behavior. Opening chapters provide a theoretical overview and history of consumer society and featured case studies look at mass consumption in familiar contexts, such as tourism, food, and higher education. The book explores ethical and political concerns, including consumer activism, indebtedness, alternative forms of consumption, and dilemmas surrounding the globalization of consumer culture.

Credit and Debt

Chapter 9 credit and debt

Mass consumer society would be unfeasible without near-universal access to credit, which allows consumers to purchase goods and services beyond their savings—often unsecured and without collateral. On one hand, access to credit “allows people to smooth consumption over their lifetime” (Coggan 2012:183). Instead of having to save thousands of dollars to pay up front for homes and cars, consumers can borrow money, albeit with interest, and make monthly payments over a set number of years. As John Kenneth Galbraith argued, credit could perform quite an egalitarian function because “it allows the man with energy and no money to participate in the economy more or less on par with the man who has capital of his own” (Kuttner ...

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