The global financial crisis of 2008 and the great recession that ensued have made economic inequality an urgent issue, sparking intense debate over the role of finance in modern life. Rise of the Rentier: France and the Making of Financial Modernity, 1830-1930 will explain how average people starting in the nineteenth century came to view financial investment as an ordinary, mundane activity, one increasingly entwined with their daily lives. This was the period in which capital experienced its first globalization, and the number of investors grew dramatically, incorporating even very small savers as members of a new investor 'class.' This research focuses on France, one of the largest capital-exporting nations of the modern era, but also one that pioneered techniques of the modern mass investor society.
Unlike conventional economic histories, which typically appraise financial markets chiefly as elements and indicators of national economic growth, this research approaches mass investment as a political and cultural as much as economic project, arguing that small investors are crucial to how financial systems gain legitimacy and persuasive capacity despite generating destabilizing inequality in democratic polities. It excavates the understandings, aspirations, and activities of ordinary people as they plunged - and were pulled - into finance, opening intimate realms in which individuals imagined and built their (economic) futures.