Consumer de-responsibilization: changing notions of consumer subjects and market moralities after the 2008–9 financial crisis
A growing body of literature discusses consumer responsibilization under neoliberalism. However, after the 2008–9 financial crisis, countertendencies emerged, which have not been sufficiently theorised. Analysing post-crisis mortgage regulatory discourse in the United Kingdom, Hungary and Switzerland, this paper examines these countertendencies and proposes the concept of “consumer de-responsibilization,” referring to the shift of responsibility from consumers to the state and financial institutions. We argue that de-responsibilization was underpinned by shifts in conceptions of the consumer subject (from the entrepreneurial to the limited rationality consumer) and in moral ideas of the market (from a deontological to a consequentialist morality). De-responsibilization operates through a top-down, sovereign form of governance. It does not replace, yet constrains the fields of neoliberal governmentality and responsibilization, constituting a hybrid governance system of “controlled freedom.” We situate de-responsibilization as a new modality of neoliberalism, which safeguards markets by excluding borrowers that may not be profitable enough.
Consumption Markets & Culture
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Credit, consumer policy, governmentality, mortgage markets, moralities, responsibilization