By Donncha Marron (auth.)
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Extra resources for Consumer Credit in the United States: A Sociological Perspective from the 19th Century to the Present
However, the new social science that gathered momentum rejected the old voluntarism of independent autonomous actors and embraced systems of explanation rooted in diverse, contradictory modes of explanation such as heredity, environment, culture, stimulus-response, and the subconscious—explanations unified by the fact that they “seldom located causation close to the surface of events or in the conscious, willing minds of individuals” (Haskell, 2000: 251). The moralizing campaigns against urban vices such as prostitution or drinking were not opposed to a sober, rational Progressivism but were actually a significant dimension of its wider reforming impulse (Boyer, 1978; Chambers, 1980).
In passing the Egan Act, the New Jersey legislature specifically sought the advice and assistance of Ham and Russell Sage in the drafting of the legislation, signifying again the importance of expertise to the process of government (Robinson and Nugent, 1935: 103). Based on their reputation, their accumulated knowledge, their documented analysis, and social scientific credentials, the employment of Ham and his Russell Sage division by state authorities produced an alliance. The former could realize their ambitions of combating the loan shark problem through liberalizing usury ceilings while the latter could intervene to secure the common welfare, aiding sizeable elements of the working classes entrenched in expensive debt.
Similarly, antisaloon and antiprostitution organizations came to rely increasingly on the objectivity-claiming instruments of statistics and sociological study to ground their cause and formulate their strategic purpose. It was within this framework that the Russell Sage studies, although committed to philanthropic remedial lending and the crusades to drive out the “sharks,” recognized that: 1. Demand for small loans was extensive but which existing legal lending institutions could or would not satisfy, in the process, creating a large black market of illegal lenders.
Consumer Credit in the United States: A Sociological Perspective from the 19th Century to the Present by Donncha Marron (auth.)