Crisis is governance: sub-prime, the traumatic event, and bare life

Brassett, James and Vaughan-Williams, Nick (2012) Crisis is governance: sub-prime, the traumatic event, and bare life. Global Society, 26 1: 19-42. doi:10.1080/13600826.2011.629988

Author Brassett, James
Vaughan-Williams, Nick
Title Crisis is governance: sub-prime, the traumatic event, and bare life
Formatted title
Crisis is governance: sub-prime, the traumatic event, and bare life
Journal name Global Society   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1360-0826
Publication date 2012
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1080/13600826.2011.629988
Open Access Status
Volume 26
Issue 1
Start page 19
End page 42
Total pages 24
Place of publication Abingdon, Oxon, United Kingdom
Publisher Routledge
Language eng
Subject 3305 Geography, Planning and Development
2306 Global and Planetary Change
Formatted abstract
This article provides a critical analysis of how discourses of trauma and the traumatic event constituted the ethico-political possibilities and limits of the sub-prime crisis. Metaphors of a "financial tsunami" and pervasive media focus on emotional "responses" such as fear, anger and blame constituted the sub-prime crisis as a singular, traumatic "event" demanding particular (humanitarian) responses. Drawing upon the work of Giorgio Agamben, we render this constituted logic of event and response in terms of the securing of sovereign power and the concomitant production of bare life; the savers and homeowners who became "helpless victims" in need of rescue. Using Agamben's recent arguments about "the apparatus" and processes of subjectification and de-subjectification, we illustrate this theoretical approach by addressing the position of the British economy, bankers and homeowners. On this view, it was the movement between subject positions-from safe to vulnerable, from entrepreneurial to greedy, from victim to survivor-that marked out the effective manner of governance during the sub-prime crisis. In the process sovereign categories of financial citizenship, assetbased welfare and securitisation (which many would posit as the very problem) were confirmed as central to our future "survival". In short, (the way that the) crisis (was constituted) is governance.

“Financial Tsunami: The End Of The World As We Knew It”
(Market Oracle Headline, 30 September 2008)

“The time for half-measures is over. Britain is no longer in the grips of a credit crunch or even a financial crisis; it is suffering a full-on financial heart attack.”
(Legrain, 7 October 2008)
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes An earlier version of this paper was presented at the "Governing Traumatic Events" workshop, Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick, 20-21 January 2011.

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collection: School of Political Science and International Studies Publications
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