Reference Materials - Debtor Nation: The History of America in Red Ink - for May 11th

Our focus for May 11 is "Debtor Nation" by Louis Hyman, available from your local library, or from for $29.35 + shipping.

Louis Hyman is a 2007 PhD in American History from Harvard who became an Assistant Professor of History at Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations. His book, released 1/23/2011, is an update and embellishment of his doctoral dissertation which was entitled "Debtor Nation: How Consumer Credit Built Postwar America."

It was recommended by June Taylor (aka Utah Owl) because she had attended the Sundance Film Festival this past winter where she saw "The Flaw" which is a documentary directed by noted British filmmaker David Sington (e.g., "In The Shadow Of The Moon") and produced by Christopher Hird (e.g., "The End of the Line"). It was purchased during the Festival by New Video for commercial distribution later this year under its Docudrama Films brand.

"The Flaw" explores the reasons for the 2008-20?? crash of the American economy with interviews of two dozen noted economists, as well as Wall Street insiders and victims of the crash. The film's title is inspired by former U.S. Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan's acknowledgment in testimony before a Congressional investigating committee that there had been "a flaw" in his model of how the economy worked.

June reported that the Sundance screening of "The Flaw" was followed by a Q&A session featuring David Sington and Louis Hyman during the course of which Sington credited Hyman's book with explaining the "why" of the crash -- that Sington had expected the Wall Street experts to provide the "why" but all they could provide was the "how"!!! Sington gave Hyman major credit for Sington's understanding of the crisis, and the story line of the film.

About his doctoral dissertation, Louis Hyman has written --

"My dissertation is about how what we call personal debt, that is debt incurred by individuals and not by businesses, went from being owed to other people to being owed to institutions, and what this has meant at the largest level about American capitalism. In the dissertation, Debtor Nation: How Consumer Credit Built Postwar America, I wanted to know how personal debt, which was at the end of the nineteenth century illicit, illegal, and always personal, became by the end of the twentieth century legal, institutional, and shockingly condoned. How did it move from the smoky backrooms of loan sharks to the brightly lit boardrooms of multinationals? How did it move from the margin of capitalism to its center? How did consumer credit become a site of investment and profit, and by the choice of these investments, what was left out? What other investments did consumer credit lending crowd out? How did this growth of consumer credit reframe the largest business narratives of the twentieth century-the second industrial revolution at the beginning of the century and so-called "deindustrialization" at its end?"

Ordinarily, we post at a minimum book reviews from the NY Times, Washington Post and/or Wall Street Journal in this "Reference Materials" forum.

Debtor Nation does not appear to have been reviewed by any of those publications.

Nevertheless, this “Reference Materials” forum is still provided for any other materials that any of our members would like to post.
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