Consumer debt has a way of trapping one’s life into a holding pattern

“The habituation of workers to the assembly line was made easier by another innovation of the early twentieth century: consumer debt. As Jackson Lears has argued, through the installment plan previously unthinkable acquisitions became thinkable, and more than thinkable: it became normal to carry debt. The display of a new car bought on installment became a sign that one was trustworthy. In a wholesale transformation of the old Puritan moralism, expressed by Benjamin Franklin (admittedly no Puritan) with the motto ‘Be frugal and free’, the early twentieth century saw the moral legitimation of spending. One symptom Lears points to is a 1907 book with the immodest title The New Basis of Civilization, by Simon Nelson Patten, in which the moral valence of debt and spending is reversed, and the multiplication of wants becomes not a sign of dangerous corruption but part of the civilizing process. That is, part of the disciplinary process. As Lears writes, ‘Indebtedness could discipline workers, keeping them at routinized jobs in factories and offices, graying but in harness, meeting payments regularly.'”
–Matthew Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft (2009)

Posted by | Comments (3)  | March 15, 2010
Category: Travel Quote of the Day

3 Responses to “Consumer debt has a way of trapping one’s life into a holding pattern”

  1. Rebecca Travel-Writers-Exchange Says:

    This is so true. Pay off your debt as soon as possible. When you travel, put the bare minimum on a credit card. If you must use your credit cards, make sure you have the money to pay them off straight-away. Unfortunately, there are some times when you must use your credit cards (like in today’s economy). Do what you can to pay them off — the sooner the better!

  2. Deanna Says:

    wow, that Patten books sounds creepy, yet very true to how our society has turned out…

  3. Sabina Says:

    And consumer debt has a way of keeping the wanderlustful grounded. How can you travel, even if you’re working while on the road, if you have to pay not only for your travels but for your debt back home too? It can be done, but it’s difficult.