The research group Financialisation began its work at the MPI in 2015. The group of six postdoc researchers, led by Chris Hann (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology) and Don Kalb (Central European University, Utrecht University, and Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology) investigates the rise of finance in the social reproduction of societies and people, together with multi-scalar contestations of these processes.
This project will extend economic anthropologists’ traditional focus on money and markets toward topical questions surrounding financialised capitalism in the contemporary globalised context. Debt, austerity, deflation, and expanding social inequalities are central features of the ongoing crises of capitalism, in which logics of finance play a central part. But current patterns are not entirely novel, and they are not the same everywhere. Anthropologists have already carried out illuminating studies of bankers and stock exchanges. This project shifts the focus toward social and relational dynamics of financialisation outside the finance sector proper. We study trajectories of finance in particular societies, practices and sectors, together with the moral background and the shifting social and political relations in which credit and debt are embedded. Our agenda includes formal and informal contestations around the rise of finance, inequality, class formation, social reproduction, and labour. We thereby extend classical economic anthropology in the direction of a closer alignment with political economy approaches, both inside and outside anthropology. Methods include both ethnographic fieldwork and archival research. All projects will apply multi-scalar perspectives as well as historically informed comparisons. While all have a primary focus in a particular space in Eurasia (understood as the entire landmass of Europe and Asia, plus fringes in North Africa and the Middle East), the framework will be stretched to take account of current global ramifications. We consider explicit theorizing essential for this endeavor and are seeking cross-fertilization between Polanyian, Maussian, Marxian, and other relational and institutionalist approaches.
The Research Projects
Financialisation and Social Reproduction in Baku, Azerbaijan
Following a decade of dramatic oil-fuelled economic growth, recent global market trends have seen Azerbaijan face economic woes with banking sector instability, currency devaluation, and mounting household indebtedness. This project examines the place of financialisation and financial instruments in household social reproduction and class transformations in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku.
Climate Finance, Emissions Trading and Forestry Practices in China
The global rise of ‘climate finance’ has triggered a proliferation of local carbon markets exchanging emissions credits and debts. Chinese emissions exchanges link financial traders, industrial emitters and farmers cultivating forests to offset pollution. Investigating these processes will illuminate climate finance’s capacity to reorient spatial inequalities and reconfigure class interests.
Spanish High-Speed Rail and the Financialisation of Infrastructure Development
This project investigates the rise of Spanish high-speed rail and its embeddedness into the accumulation regime of post-Francoist Spain. The transition from conventional to high-speed rail marks more than the articulation of a new relationship between territory and infrastructure, and is here treated as a strategic lens for understanding social conflict in the contemporary financialized economy.
Financialisation of the Economy and Flexibilisation of Work in Greece
This project studies the parallel and intertwined processes of financialisation and flexible work in Greece by looking at transformations of the moral and political economy in the last three decades. It focuses on the deregulation of work and on relations between indebtedness in households and small- scale companies.
Household Debt in Post-Credit Boom Croatia
The boom and bust of household debt in Croatia since the late 1990s has become a major social and political issue. This project studies the intersections of debt with class and regulative frameworks, political practices and social institutions that embed debt in competing moral economies from the household to the nation-state.
Financial Education in Germany: Redirecting Household Investments
Transnational guidelines for teaching people how to manage their debts and assets meet recalcitrant Germans concerned mainly about the value of their public and private savings. This project will examine financial education in Germany as a terrain upon which household interests are being reassessed and their investments redirected.