Pragmatics and politics: the case of industrial assurance in the UK

McFall, Liz (2010). Pragmatics and politics: the case of industrial assurance in the UK. Journal of Cultural Economy, 3(2) pp. 205–224.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17530350.2010.494124

Abstract

Using the case of industrial assurance, this paper argues that a focused concern with the pragmatics of market devices can offer a particularist politics of analysis by uncovering the material, technical and social conditions through which economic objects and persons are constituted. Industrial assurance grew exponentially in the UK after 1880 to become, through a series of political and economic twists and turns, by the 1910s the key commercial institution offering to ‘foster and protect’ the savings of the poor. Deploying a business model - based on door-to-door agents’ collection of small weekly premiums - unchanged in its key particulars for more than a century, industrial assurance was extraordinarily successful. The paper argues that pragmatic description of industrial assurance as an agencement reveals how entangled emerging industrial assurance markets were with political theorising, government and law

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