23/05/2018 research seminar

Oikonomizing financial economies

José Ossandón (Copenhagen Business School)

Discussant: Mateusz Halawa (MPPG IFiS PAN)


In the wake of the financial crisis, there has been an explosion of interest in the place finance occupies in our societies and economies. In the critical social sciences, much of this interest has been translated through the concept of financialization. Although in many ways useful, it is increasingly being recognized that the concept has its limitations, both theoretically and as an empirical guide. Oikonomising finance, as a theoretical and methodological orientation distinct from work on financialization, is about simultaneously studying the use and practice of finance in domestic settings and the ways in which domestic life is enacted as target of varied financial providers and governed in terms of its financial capabilities. The processes of oikonomization act through domains of life that have been coded differently in different literatures, but include the registers of the everyday, the quotidian, the domestic, the household, the intimate, the habitual, the bodily, the familial, the interpersonal, the experiential. Some of its key features have already been documented and analysed, sometime meticulously. However, it is only rarely that attempts are made to connect together some of the diverse sites through which it operates. In exploring the analytical and methodological possibilities of an oikonomization approach, we aim to variously contribute to discussions around the current state of new economic sociology (and its ‘new new’ variant), as a way on further reflecting on how empirically sensitive, multi-sited studies of economic life can broaden the terrain of sociological attention. Specifically, in our paper, we aim to achieve three things. First, in order to illustrate what we mean by “oikonomizing finance”, we seek to bring together diverse and often disconnected recent literature from research conducted across a wide range of national settings and from different disciplinary environments. Second, we expect to demonstrate that what we term oikonomization adds a particular modification to the study of finance more generally. Third, we argue that oikonomization proceeds through characteristic ‘operations’. In this paper we identify ten that, on the basis of an analysis of a range of literature, we consider to be particularly characteristic of oikonomization processes. These are: budgeting, educating, evaluating, infra-structuring, involving, juggling, keeping, politicizing, sharing, and spending. Each operation is discussed in turn via a range of case studies and examples, as a way of demonstrating the precise mechanisms on which oikonomization processes depend. The particular interest of the paper, however, is not just in naming these operations but also in tracing the flows of finance across and between these (and potentially other) sets of operations. This, we argue, implies a particular empirical commitment which raises challenges to many of methodologies conventionally used to understand the relationships between organisational, governmental, and domestic practices. (Paper in progress co-authored with Joe Deville, Jeanne Lazarus, Mariana Luzzi).