Paying with plastic:the enduring presence of the credit card

Deville, Joseph (2014) Paying with plastic:the enduring presence of the credit card. In: Accumulation. CRESC Culture Economy and the Social . Routledge, London. ISBN 9780415625821

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All monetary objects – credit cards as much as bank notes and coins – are material things that can be considered as ‘economic devices’. The success of the particular transactional object depends on the security and predictability of its relations with a diverse and complex range of associated actors, both human and non-human. Yet monetary devices themselves can shape the course of economic action. This chapter focuses on objects at the ‘frontline’ of many forms of consumer credit enabled economic exchange: the plastic cards that smooth so many people’s passages through consumer spaces are a recognizable part of our everyday lives. It argues that not enough attention has been paid to how monetary mediums might be important in shaping social and economic life. It focuses on historical emergence of the plastic card in the United States, showing the way in which plastic and its specific socio-material affordances have, in different and changing ways, mattered in the history of the payment card and in creditors’ engagements with users, including playing a key role in accelerating the first major credit card boom. The chapter then moves to the United Kingdom, exploring the role of the card not in moments of borrowing, but at times of default – that is, when consumer credit borrowers, for whatever reason, are unable (or unwilling) to meet their obligations to repay. In these situations, as the chapter shows, the cards themselves can become the targets of micropolitical forms of protest, directing attention towards what usually goes unremarked: that the accumulation of billions of dollars of consumer credit debt not only depends on, but has been stimulated by, the accumulation in so many everyday lives of millions of superficially unremarkable plastic cards.

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21 Oct 2015 05:08
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12 Sep 2023 02:01