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Life and debt: a view from the south

James, Deborah (2021) Life and debt: a view from the south. Economy and Society, 50 (1). 36 - 56. ISSN 0308-5147

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Identification Number: 10.1080/03085147.2021.1841930


This paper explores how, in countries in the global south where sharp rises in indebtedness have accompanied the financialization of the economy, debt factors into other relationships and meanings in the life of the family and household. Using ethnographic material from South Africa, it explores local concepts of householding, obligation and saving (asking whether relations of commodified debt nullify those of longstanding social commitment), investigates how people convert between cash-based or short term imperatives and moral or longer-term ones, and shows how barriers are sometimes erected between these separate spheres thus making them incommensurable. The paper challenges some accounts of the “financialization of daily life” which imply a one-way, top-down intrusion by the market—with state backing—into people’s intimate relations, commitments and aspirations, and maintains that we need to explore the complicity of participants’ engagement with these processes rather than seeing them as imposed on unwilling victims.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
Date Deposited: 08 Sep 2020 09:57
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2023 13:03

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