The Open UniversitySkip to content

The disinterested self: the idealized subject of life assurance

McFall, Liz (2007). The disinterested self: the idealized subject of life assurance. Cultural Studies, 21(4-5) pp. 591–609.

Full text available as:
PDF (Not Set) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (828kB)
DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link:
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


In naming his satirical version of a life assurance company The Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance Company Dickens was aiming at an already well-established tendency for life assurance companies to stress in their promotional enterprises the altruistic character of their business. So disinterested was the Anglo-Bengalee that 'nobody can run any risk by the transaction except the office, which, in its great liberality is pretty sure to lose' (1994: 419). While few life assurance companies would have pushed the claim that far it is certainly the case that the idea of 'disinterestedness' played a peculiar role in the nineteenth century life assurance industry. This paper explores how life assurance companies sought to overcome concerns about the safety and propriety of their business by promulgating particular ideas about life assurance as a pious, self-�disinterested' form of conduct. Throughout the nineteenth century life assurance operated as an exemplary technique of liberal government by offering a means of market-based self-rule that depended heavily on an emergent form of knowledge which blended together impartiality, self-interest and disinterestedness (Poovey, 1998).

Item Type: Journal Item
ISSN: 1466-4348
Keywords: life assurance; self-interest; promotion; liberal government
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > History, Religious Studies, Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
Item ID: 9204
Depositing User: Liz McFall
Date Deposited: 18 Sep 2007
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2018 19:00
Share this page:


Altmetrics from Altmetric

Citations from Dimensions

Download history for this item

These details should be considered as only a guide to the number of downloads performed manually. Algorithmic methods have been applied in an attempt to remove automated downloads from the displayed statistics but no guarantee can be made as to the accuracy of the figures.

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU