Productive Lives of Mortgages in Poland

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:29
Location: Hörsaal II (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Mateusz HALAWA, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland
Based on ethnographic fieldwork in households of the first postsocialist generation in Warsaw, Poland, this paper tracks the social effects of the rise of mortgage credit. In the last decade mortgages, one of the oldest devices of capitalism, proliferated in the Polish society only recently reformed into a market economy. It is an unlikely natural experiment that makes visible the properties and capacities of the mortgage as a social mediator in a space where there is no collective memory of what mortgages are or do, there exists no significant group of those who completed their payments, and mortgage contracts often reach further into the future than the history of market economy in Poland reaches into the past. How does the innovation of the mortgage get domesticated in household economies and become entangled in kinship networks? This paper argues that mortgages have “productive lives” across domains of economy, society and culture, and that they should be counted as significant actors in their own right that have the capacity to transform social relationships and shift subjectivities. The analysis will focus on young couples going on their own in their first apartment bought with the mortgage. I will investigate how the mortgages constitute both the affective and the monetary economies of the household, which become centered around financial and symbolic demands of repayment. I will examine how the mortgage participates in practices of relational work between the young couple and their parental households, especially around questions of family property and inheritance, as well as around ongoing intergenerational transfers of time and money. Finally, I will explore the social meanings of the mortgage in the context of processes of financialization of everyday life beyond the usual Anglo-American space in which it has been studied.