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The Twilight World of Interwar British Hire Purchase

The nature, scope and cost of retail credit has had an important impact on consumption and living standards. Yet to many contemporaries its social impact may often have assumed at least equal significance. The possession of high-value durable goods was an important determinant of social status, partly in that they represented a conspicuous form of capital that could, for example, be pawned in times of need.1 However, resorting to credit — whether it be pawning, ‘tick’ at the local shop or borrowing from a moneylender — carried some social stigma, which varied according to circumstances, the individual or family’s social status, and the form of credit used. The growth of hire purchase (HP) trading had a major impact on the relationship between conspicuous consumption, credit and social status for the working and lower middle classes. By allowing people to obtain durable goods of a value well in excess of their immediate savings, it opened up considerable opportunities for social enhancement. Yet to be seen to be using the ‘never-never’ carried a greater stigma than that associated with most forms of credit, since it was popularly associated with reckless indebtedness for the purchase of ‘luxuries’ on the part of http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Past & Present Oxford University Press

The Twilight World of Interwar British Hire Purchase

Abstract

The nature, scope and cost of retail credit has had an important impact on consumption and living standards. Yet to many contemporaries its social impact may often have assumed at least equal significance. The possession of high-value durable goods was an important determinant of social status, partly in that they represented a conspicuous form of capital that could, for example, be pawned in times of need.1 However, resorting to credit — whether it be pawning, ‘tick’ at the local shop or borrowing from a moneylender — carried some social stigma, which varied according to circumstances, the individual or family’s social status, and the form of credit used. The growth of hire purchase (HP) trading had a major impact on the relationship between conspicuous consumption, credit and social status for the working and lower middle classes. By allowing people to obtain durable goods of a value well in excess of their immediate savings, it opened up considerable opportunities for social enhancement. Yet to be seen to be using the ‘never-never’ carried a greater stigma than that associated with most forms of credit, since it was popularly associated with reckless indebtedness for the purchase of ‘luxuries’ on the part of
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