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Consumer De-responsibilization: Changing Notions of Consumer Subjects and Market Moralities after the 2008-9 Financial Crisis

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Article in conference proceedings
A growing body of literature discusses consumer responsibilization under neoliberalism. However, after the 2008-9 financial crisis, countertendencies emerged, which have not been sufficiently theorized. Analyzing post-crisis mortgage regulatory discourse in the UK, 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.
Conference proceedings
Research in Consumer Culture Theory, Vol. 3
G. Patsiaouras, J. Fitchett and AJ Earley
Meeting name
Consumer Culture Theory Conference 2020: Interrogating Social Imaginaries
Meeting place
Leicester, United Kingdom
Meeting date
26-28 June 2020
Credit, Consumer policy, Financial markets, Moralities, Responsibilization