UHV dean’s new book looks at social impact of debt

When Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the University of Houston-Victoria School of Arts & Sciences, set out to put together a book about debt and its impact on society, he chose to pursue the topic through the perspectives of public intellectuals and cultural critics instead of the typical economists’ viewpoint.

Jeffrey Di Leo

“The publisher saw the uniqueness of this perspective because this was not a book about crunching numbers,” Di Leo said. “This book is made up of essays written by authors who took a critical look at how the regime of debt is impacting society and who offered various ways to dismantle it. There aren’t many books out there that encourage this kind of conversation.”

Di Leo worked with Peter Hitchcock, a professor of English at the City University of New York Graduate Center and Baruch College of the university, and Sophia A. McClennen, a professor of international affairs and comparative literature at Penn State University, to edit “The Debt Age.”


The book was published earlier this year by Routledge in New York. It contains an introduction by the editors and 12 essays by authors, academics, social activists and the editors covering topics from the history of debt to the modern issues of student debt and how debt affects people’s physical health.

The level of debt worldwide is higher now than at any time in history, and debt now impacts every aspect of society, Di Leo said. The different essays in “The Debt Age” explore questions about how this came about, as well as the ethics and politics of debt.

“Debt has become almost a unifying factor in our society because the vast majority of people have some form of it,” Di Leo said. “Andrew Ross, one of the writers featured in the book, even goes so far as to say we are becoming a ‘creditocracy’ instead of a democracy. Americans now are free to get all the credit they think they need.”

Another topic the book explores is how debt has become normal in today’s society. Whether it’s student loans to earn a degree or the overuse of credit cards, debt has become common.

“There’s been a shift from people trying to avoid and get rid of debt to just trying to manage and live with it,” Di Leo said. “Many more people today think that paying off their debt is impossible, so they just make the minimum payments and resolve to live out their lives in debt. Instead of planning to eventually be free of debt, they are just learning to cope with it.”

“The Debt Age” can be purchased in paperback or hardbound through the publisher; major retailers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Walmart; or as an ebook through Kindle or the Google Play store.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.