Everyday Financialization: The Case of UK Households

Hillig, Ariane (2019). Everyday Financialization: The Case of UK Households. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00010436


Since the 1970s the UK government has been promoting private asset ownership while decreasing publicly funded welfare programmes. This asset-based welfare approach calls on households to accumulate assets in order to provide financial security during periods of income shortfall. Drawing on a Foucauldian governmentality framework, the dissertation explores how norms of asset ownership are constructed and embedded in households’ discourses and practices. For this purpose, 56 semi-structured interviews with 55 UK households and 60 household members were conducted between 2016 and 2017. The insights gained from the interviews have been supported with an analysis of newspaper articles and put into relation to the wider UK development with the help of household surveys conducted by the government.

The findings presented in the thesis reflect empirical, theoretical and methodological contributions. First, looking to debates within the financialization of daily life literature, the empirical findings indicate that households adopt a financialized subject position, albeit differently interpreted than anticipated by the literature. Households accumulate financial and non-financial assets and avoid debt except for asset accumulation purposes. Second, the empirical insights provide the basis for the theoretical contribution. By shedding light on the interplay between asset norms and everyday practices discussions on governmentality and capitalist relations are extended. To be able to save and invest, interviewed households increase work hours, choose a job solely based on income and make sure to work hard while living a nonmaterialistic lifestyle. Through this it is argued here that power relationships incorporated in capital-labour inequalities are strengthened. Third, a methodological contribution is outlined by showing how the employed holistic approach has helped to reveal household financial identities. By providing qualitative empirical insights instead of relying solely on secondary data, it is shown that asset norms are not absorbed in a non-reflected way but are negotiated.

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