736.9 Home economics: Organising the household for global finance

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 3:50 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Fiona ALLON , Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Financial markets are increasingly integral to daily life. Relatively routine financial practices such as the purchase of houses, cars, consumer goods, and the payment of insurance, phone and utility bills are connected to globally integrated financial markets through processes of securitization. Moreover, finance itself is constituted in important new ways through the borrowing and saving practices of ordinary households. Market logics are therefore reshaping the organisation of social life more broadly, extending to social domains once thought to be outside, beyond or in opposition to the spheres of ‘the market’ and ‘the economy’, as they are commonly understood. This entanglement of financial markets with spaces and activities not previously associated with processes of calculation, measure, and economic value suggests a considerable challenge to received understandings of the relationships between economy and society, production and reproduction, and life and labour. 

This paper explores these shifting relationships between the household and financial markets. It suggests that the organisation of contemporary global finance cannot be adequately understood without taking into consideration the redistribution of financial risks and responsibilities onto the household and the implicit expectations that it will perform in particular ways. As a site of mediation between individuals and markets, the household is a space not only intimately entwined with such major political and economic shifts: it is also where assumptions of responsible self-management are located and therefore a site upon which such processes are effectively dependent. Ordinary households, for example, have been exhorted to perform their own kinds of ‘calculative agencies’ in their efforts to function as competent financial subjects. We have already witnessed how some of these agencies played out in relation to the global financial crisis; we can also see them at work in other less spectacular events.