Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space | 2021
‘Locked in the Rat Race’: Variegated financial subjectivities in the United Kingdom
In the past four decades, the UK welfare state has been continuously reduced while asset ownership has gained in importance. Rather than relying on publicly funded welfare when not working, individuals are expected to mitigate future risks such as ill health, unemployment or old-age poverty through accumulating assets. Previous research employing a Foucauldian governmentality framework has explored how these norms of asset accumulation come into being through institutional changes and discourses. Documenting the narratives and practices of 60 UK individuals and bringing in an understanding of resistance being immanent in power technologies, the author sets out two key contributions to the everyday financialisation literature. First, this paper is the first study to conceptualise differential financial discourses and practices as distinct subject positions within the realms of financialisation. Due to feeling ‘trapped’ in having to provide financial security themselves, governable subjects amend asset norms to their own needs. Five subject positions emerged from the complex interplay between norms of conduct and counter-conduct. Second, these variegated financial subjectivities and practices are, it is argued, not only deviating from a theorised investor subject but are also necessary for everyday financialisation to take place. Counter-conduct helps to smoothen ambiguities inherent in norms of conduct, enabling asset accumulation and reinforcing a welfare system based on individual responsibility.