Personal debt was until very recently seen in terms of moral transgression. With the rapid disappearance of the Puritan work ethic, which emphasised saving over consumption, debt has become socially acceptable in a remarkably short time.
Once regarded as an earned privilege of the thrifty few, the plastic in our pocket has come to be seen as a fundamental social class entitlement, sometimes called affectionately Yuppie Food Stamps.
Laurie Taylor talks to the economic sociologist Robert D. Manning about how the US became seduced by the credit card and an extraordinary transformation in attitudes to debt.
HOW UNWANTED ACTS BECOME CRIMES
The relationship between levels of crime and fear of crime continues to exercise academics and policy makers alike. Do soaring prison populations accurately reflect the former or the latter?
Nils Christie, Professor of Criminology at the University of Oslo, argues that crime is a product of cultural, social and mental processes. In his latest book A Suitable Amount of Crime, he examines how the current socio-economic climate makes it easy, and in the interests of many, to broaden the definition of what constitutes criminal behaviour.
Robert D. Manning
This story ran on BBC Radio on February 11, 2004.