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Owing everyone: debt advice in the UK’s time of austerity

James, Deborah (2019) Owing everyone: debt advice in the UK’s time of austerity. Ethnos. ISSN 0014-1844

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Identification Number: 10.1080/00141844.2019.1687544


Under UK austerity, people are obliged to pay up: either to the market (those with debt to commercial creditors) or the state (for those receiving welfare benefits—a person may owe the local council or tax office because she is in arrears or was ‘overpaid’). Seeking clarification or counsel from advisers means entering a world where payments often seem to be automated and where the state is ‘giving with one hand and taking away with the other’. Yet payments have a human, even moral/ethical aspect and must be negotiated. The adviser helps the debtor to close the flood gates through which these payments flow, or temporarily to reduce the cascade to a trickle. Under austerity, with legal aid and other funding withdrawn, the advice sector is performing the government’s work of care. Agencies must identify new wellsprings of care and concern, or intensify the demands placed upon existing ones.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 The Author
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2019 15:39
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2022 18:03

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