Indebtedness and Financialization in Everyday Life

Authored by: Johnna Montgomerie

The Routledge International Handbook of Financialization

Print publication date:  February  2020
Online publication date:  February  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138308213
eBook ISBN: 9781315142876
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter offers a novel reading of the political economy and cultural economy literature on financialization and debt as it coalesces around understandings of “indebtedness.” This is refracted through the conceptual lens of the “household” to make visible key sites, or socio-spatial scales, where indebtedness precariously integrates financialization into everyday life. The aim is to provide a comprehensive account of how indebtedness is driving, sustaining and reproducing financialization, but in ways that also make financialization vulnerable and fragile. This is achieved, first, by “reading together” the political economy and cultural economy literatures which although theoretically very different, substantively both seek to understand the transformative dynamics of financialization and debt in the present-day. In practice, this means imposing a basic conceptual frame of the household balance sheet, both assets and liabilities, because both political and cultural economy approaches share this basic framework when they account for how financialization unfolds at the scale of the household. What becomes apparent is that “indebtedness” is a dynamic transformative force in which debt reconfigures how individuals, households, communities, national economies and global financial markets are connected to each other. From this vantage point, the significance of indebtedness is reinterpreted using the household as a conceptual lens, which means not simply treating the household as a black box and assuming it simply responds to economic stimuli in a predictable way (to, for example, low interest rates). Instead, the household becomes a conceptual lens that makes visible how the mundane everyday activities of households (their actions, reactions, inactions) expose the vulnerabilities of financialization.

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