Living on Instalments. Credit and the Moral Economy of Post-Industrial Working-Class Households in Chile

  • Alejandro Marambio-Tapia

Student thesis: Phd


Credit is ubiquitous in the life of Chilean households. It is a key feature in the budgeting, shopping, and consuming practices of families. Consequently, to be indebted is a normal expectation in Chile. Families engage with the ‘necessary evil’ of credit in different ways, showing a massive, regular use of credit as short, medium and long-term leverage tool, with store cards being the main source of credit for families of the Post-industrial Working-class, and for the lower and moderate-income families in general. The normalisation of credit is also enacted in the experiences of the debt careers of the families, and the meanings they attribute to their persistent encounters with credit and their debt disasters. Moral obligations, conventional and unconventional financial knowledge accompany the everyday situated economic practices of families. This thesis addresses the processes of moral legitimation and strategic adaptation that households employ to operate and justify their economic rationality, looking at credit in a context of ordinary and everyday consumption. Quantitative structural data, semi-structured interviewees with 44 heads of households and research on the financial education landscape in Chile uncover the material practices and meanings which underpin narratives of economic struggle and moderate social aspirations. Their rationalities usually clash with those deployed by state and market agents that are aimed to educate those in a ‘healthy indebtedness’. Households produce a re-signification of debt where debt has been ‘de-moralised’, and credit moralised, making the impression that eventually ‘credit is not debt’. This research contributes to the discussion about the meaning of debt, to understand the financialisation of everyday life by looking at situated economic practices, and to the social, moral, and relational foundations of the economic practices.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAlan Warde (Supervisor) & Wendy Bottero (Supervisor)


  • Credit
  • Debt
  • Household Economy
  • Post-Industrial Working Class
  • Chile
  • Moral Economy
  • Neoliberal Subjects
  • Retail

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