Household Debt and the Financialization of Social Reproduction: Theorizing the UK Housing and Hunger Crises

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Abstract

The proliferation of homelessness and housing precariousness, along with a dramatic growth in food banks, are two signs that while parts of the UK economy may be recovering from the 2008 financial crisis and recession, the same cannot be said for the living conditions of much of the poor and working class population. Much of the media discussion has centered on the ways in which these social ills have been caused by government policy, particularly cuts to social and welfare services introduced under the banner of “austerity.” I argue in this paper, however, that a narrow focus on austerity risks obscuring some of the longer-term structural transformations that have taken place under neoliberal capitalism, namely: (1) financialization and (2) the privatization of social reproduction. Situating these two trends within a longer history of capitalism, I argue, allows us to understand the contemporary housing and food crises as specific (and highly gendered) manifestations of a more fundamental contradiction between capital accumulation and progressive and sustainable forms of social reproduction. Doing so further helps to locate the dramatic proliferation of household debt, which has been supported by both processes, as both cause and consequence of the crisis in social reproduction faced by many UK households.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-164
JournalResearch in Political Economy
Volume31
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2016

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