Into the Red explores the emergence of a credit card market in post-Soviet Russia during the formative period from 1988 to 2007. In her analysis, Alya Guseva locates the dynamics of market building in the social structure, specifically the creative use of social networks. Until now, network scholars have overlooked the role that networks play in facilitating exchange in mass markets because they have exclusively focused on firm-to-firm or person-to-person ties. Into the Reddemonstrates how networks that combine individuals and organizations help to build markets for mass consumption. The book is situated on the cutting edge of emerging interdisciplinary research, linking multiple layers of analysis with institutional evolution. Using an intricate framework, Guseva chronicles both the creation of a credit card market and the making of a mass consumer. These processes are placed in the context of the ongoing restructuring in postcommunist Russia and the expansion of Western markets and ideologies through the rest of the world.
In the United States, we now take our ability to pay with plastic for granted. In other parts of the world, however, the establishment of a "credit-card economy" has not been easy. In countries without a history of economic stability, how can banks decide who should be given a credit card? How do markets convince people to use cards, make their transactions visible to authorities, assume the potential risk of fraud, and pay to use their own money? Why should merchants agree to pay extra if customers use cards instead of cash? In Plastic Money, Akos Rona-Tas and Alya Guseva tell the story of how banks overcame these and other quandaries as they constructed markets for credit cards in eight postcommunist countries. We know how markets work once they are built, but this book develops a unique framework for understanding how markets are engineered from the ground up--by selecting key players, ensuring cooperation, and providing conditions for the valuation of a product. Drawing on extensive interviews and fieldwork, the authors chronicle how banks overcame these hurdles and generated a desire for their new product in the midst of a transition from communism to capitalism.