Credit Card Nation the Consequences of America's Addiction to Credit

Robert D. Manning, Author
Robert D. Manning, Author Basic Books $26 (416p) ISBN 978-0-465-04366-8
Reviewed on: 12/04/2000
Release date: 12/01/2000
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-465-04367-5
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A sociology professor whose specialty is the effect of credit card debt on college students, Manning expands his focus here to encompass social attitudes toward all types of debt. Suggesting that debt leads not only to financial ruin but also to moral and social degradation, this dense, technical work is filled with jargon (chapter four, for example, is subtitled ""Convenience Users and the Ideological Construction of the Moral Divide""). In the first-person interviews with college students, the subjects are rarely allowed to complete a sentence. Instead, Manning embeds phrases from the interviews into his own argument. Since we never learn more than a few facts about each interviewee (not even a last name or college affiliation), they serve as chorus to the monologue rather than adding weight or complexity to Manning's thesis. When relating facts, Manning puts quotation marks around the many terms he disagrees with, conveying his opinion without supporting evidence for his views. Loaded words substitute for exposition: people do not choose to borrow, they are ""addicted to credit""; he does not deem them ""borrowers,"" but ""users""; no one simply owes money--instead, everyone is ""burdened,"" ""oppressed"" or ""overwhelmed"" by debt, even when the debt seems small relative to their assets and income. (Feb. 2) Forecast: Manning's book may interest professional sociologists, but general readers will find it difficult to understand in some places, dogmatic and unsubstantiated elsewhere. However, given its timely topic, the book is likely to receive serious review attention, and will pick up some sales due to Manning's media appearances (he's been featured on ABC World News Tonight, CNN and elsewhere. But the book's academic gloss will keep sales from rising high, despite the millions of Americans suffering from debt overload.
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