The Making of Homo Financius: Conventions, Emotions and Morality in Financial Education.

Daniel Maman & Zeev Rosenhek (2017)

Working Paper

The individualization, privatization and marketization of risk management are defining features of current financialized capitalism. This neoliberal project of responsibilization implies the constitution of a subject exhibiting particular dispositions considered as necessary to participate in the financial sphere in a proper manner. Practices of financial education serve as an important instrument for delineating the constitutive dispositions of a financially proficient actor who is able to handle individualized risks through her participation in financial markets, hence conforming to the financialization of the political economy at the macro-institutional level. In this paper we analyze programs of financial education currently conducted by state and non-state agencies in Israel, examining the ways in which they define and justify proper financial conduct. We show that these programs are far more than merely informative; they construe and mobilize there basic discursive devices: conventions, emotions and moral imperatives. Common-sense conventions regarding the functioning of finance are intended to induce individuals to experience and navigate the financial sphere as if it was a site of knowable and manageable risks. Emotions around financial practices are construed and mobilized in order to shape individuals’ expectations and to prompt them to take particular financial actions. And notions of individual responsibility, prudence, and calculative behavior in financial matters are presented not merely as valued instrumental resources, but as key components of morally virtuous personhood. In this way, by connecting individuals’ subjectivities to the individualization and marketization of risk management, financial education contributes to the insertion and normalization of the ideational and institutional logics of financialization into everyday life.

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