Culture, economy and the normalization of debt

Ellis, David
Culture, economy and the normalization of debt. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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The growth of personal indebtedness in the UK has become of increasing significance in the years following the 2007/8 global financial crises as both a public issue and within the personal troubles of individuals. What distinguishes contemporary personal debt is its relationship to the political and economic transformations of the last 30 years, characterised as the process of neoliberalization. This process is allied with a particularly virulent form of global financial capitalism that has increasingly come to dominate all aspects of society, from the institutional structures of civil society to the minutiae of everyday life. In order to draw out the main features of this process and its role in the normalization of debt, this thesis addresses two distinct, but interrelated questions: first, how has personal debt been framed through the promotion and dissemination of particular policy and public discourses?; and second, how have attitudes and behaviours towards personal debt been transformed as everyday cultural practices and understandings? First, the research is guided by the post-disciplinary approach of ‘cultural political economy’, using the concept of the ‘economic imaginary’ to identify the evolving material-discursive production of meaning in government policy-making that has framed personal debt. Second, the research examines how intersubjective meanings of personal debt have become resonant within everyday practices of credit and debt through a series of biographical narrative participant interviews. The two strands of research are brought together within a cultural political economy framework. This thesis demonstrates how established neoliberal embedding at policy-level has unswervingly framed a conception of ‘consumer freedom’ that involves increasing access to credit markets, but emergent extra-discursive situations have always constrained such framings. At the same time, increased access to credit has meant a greater acceptance of debt by people who negotiate these transformations by developing modes of calculation that reduce the moral complications of debt accumulation. However, it also involves being vulnerable to greater risks, as they are exposed to the same extra-discursive constraints.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: Date: 2014-12 (completed)
Subjects: ?? H1 ??
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 30 Jul 2015 14:04
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2022 01:34
DOI: 10.17638/02014221