chapter  4
17 Pages

Mass indebtedness and the luxury of payment means

WithMark Horsley, Anthony Lloyd

Without the remarkable explosion of the credit industry since the early 1990s it’s almost inconceivable that late capitalism, in its neoliberal mode, could have maintained the vibrant and multifaceted consumer markets of the last few decades. Its capacity to create payment means by attaching contractual claims to prospective futures has allowed capitalism to transcend the decline of its material productivity, sustaining consumption against the upward concentration of wealth. In this chapter we consider both the source and the implications of that transcendence, tracing it from the rarefied confines of the financial industry into the lives of consumers to explore the implications of distributing payment means as a kind of ‘systemic luxury’ running counter to the material productivity of prevailing systems and processes.