Debt As a Heterogeneously Constituted Relationship: Payment and Collection at the Household Level
This paper provides a theoretically driven engagement of empirical observations concerning debt, indebtedness and collection. It builds on material gathered while researching indebtedness and debt collection in Belgium, focussing on both collection agencies and bailiffs. Theoretically, this paper takes the 'economization framework' (as developed by Michel Callon & Koray Çalışkan) as a starting point in an attempt to understand how debt collection is constituted through a network in which a variety of 'heterogeneous elements' is involved. Material and technical devices, knowledge (both scholarly and lay), legal documents and contractual stipulations are some of the elements that play a constitutive role in the establishment of debt as a social relationship.
Pertinent to the topic of the panel, this paper argues that we should broaden our theoretical scope and include not only economic aspects, but also textual, interpersonal and especially legal dimensions if we wish to understand debt as a social relationship. By approaching debt in this manner, this paper has two aims. First, it hopes to further theoretical sociological understanding of debt as a prominent aspect of everyday economic life. Second, and equally important, through the case of debt collection, it aims to explore how 'the economic' is constituted through a variety of elements from different social spheres.