Full Text

Credit Cards

Lloyd Klein

Subject Banking and Finance
Sociology » Consumption, Economic Sociology

Key-Topics capitalism, consumerism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Credit cards are a popularized economic instrument enabling the consumer acquisition of goods or services in exchange for assured merchant or provider payment through financial institutions. The resulting transfer of funds was enabled through a change in the cultural view of thrift and systematic savings. Much of the pattern was driven by a transformation from ideological values associated with savings into a culture focused on consumer acquisition. Max Weber's view of social change stressed an intensified neutralization of the “Protestant Ethic” into a more vigorous consumer orientation. In Weber's analysis, credit was viewed as more culturally acceptable beginning early in the twentieth century. This trend gave way to the “democratization of credit” and the increasing acceptance of consumer credit in the form of credit cards and other financial mechanisms. The utility of credit cards was enhanced as consumers shifted from the “future orientation” of saving for planned purchases into a “present orientation” of buying now and paying for the goods or services at a later point. According to at least one industry insider, the original credit cards began as paper cards authorizing the acquisition of restaurant meals and eventually evolved into plastic strips facilitating the purchase of virtually any good or service. The term credit card became culturally and economically significant ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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