The Making Of “Homo Financius”: The Emergence Of The Financial Literacy Field In Israel

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 9:15 AM
Room: 301
Oral Presentation
Daniel MAMAN , Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel
Zeev ROSENHEK , Department of Sociology, Political Science and Communication, The Open University of Israel, Raanana, Israel
In the era of financialized capitalism, states not only supervise and regulate financial markets, but also discipline individuals, requiring them to take responsibility for their financial decisions and their current and future economic situation. Attendant to the privatization of risk, varied actors attempt to instill among individuals the knowledge, skills, predispositions and attitudes considered as necessary to function as responsible and wise consumers in the financial sphere, thereby creating a capable and reliable “homo financius”. In the last years, the constitutive traits of homo financius are being specified and promoted using and diffusing the concept of financial literacy, which refers to a set of capabilities that are seen as underpinning proper and responsible financial conduct. Based on a detailed process-tracing study, this paper examines the emergence of the new institutional field of financial literacy in Israel, analyzing the modes of action of the array of actors populating it, and the various notions and practices that are being formulated, negotiated and institutionalized. The emergence of the field has been the result of interactions among actors responding to numerous changes initiated by state agencies in the local financial system and to the institutionalization of financial literacy as a compelling global standard. Following these developments, new opportunities were created for many and varied actors – both state and non-state – most of them existing before the emergence of this field. These actors propose varied notions and practices of financial literacy, drawing different field boundaries and promoting varying rules of interaction between the actors populating it. Patterns of cooperation and conflict among the actors surface mainly around the establishment and institutionalization of boundaries and rules of this emerging field.