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Foreclosure Stories: Neoliberal Suffering in the Great Recession


This article examines how the foreclosure crisis has been represented in a range of narrative genres: the reportage of Paul Reyes's Exiles in Eden: Life among the Ruins of Florida's Great Recession (2010), Michael Moore's documentary film Capitalism: A Love Story (2009), and Paul Auster's novel Sunset Park (2010).These narratives attempt to contextualize the human beings caught in the center of the subprime mortgage storm, but in the process each of them runs up against an opacity or obscurity, a crisis of representation. The article argues that underlying the financial crisis is an inability to recognize and comprehend deeply embedded structures of inequality, a failure common to both the financial system and the wider culture. Drawing on recent accounts of the techniques of credit scoring and mortgage securitization in the disciplines of business history, accounting, financial management, and human geography, the article concludes that subprime mortgage lending involved social relations of supremacy and subordination, as well as representational strategies which identified individuals solely in terms of credit risk, while failing to grasp the conditions of poverty and disadvantage which constituted them as a class.

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Elvin K. Wyly , Mona Atia , Holly Foxcroft , Daniel J. Hammel , and Kelly Phillips-Watts , “American Home: Predatory Mortgage Capital and Spaces of Race and Class Exploitation in the U. S.,” Geografiska Annaler, Series B, 88, 1 (2006), 105–32

Martha Poon , “From New Deal Institutions to Capital Markets: Commercial Consumer Risk Scores and the Making of Subprime Mortgage Finance,” Accounting, Organizations and Society, 34 (2009), 654–74, 663

Donncha Marron , “ ‘Lending by Numbers’: Credit Scoring and the Constitution of Risk within American Consumer Credit,” Economy and Society, 36, 1 (2007), 103–33, 122

Paul Langley , “Sub-prime Mortgage Lending: A Cultural Economy,” Economy and Society, 37, 4 (2008), 469–94, 472

Kevin Fox Gotham , “Creating Liquidity out of Spatial Fixity: The Secondary Circuit of Capital and the Subprime Crisis,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 33, 2 (2009), 355–71

idem, “The Secondary Circuit of Capital Reconsidered: Globalization and the U.S. Real Estate Sector,” American Journal of Sociology, 112, 1 (2006), 231–75

Anna McCarthy , “Reality Television: A Theater of Neoliberal Suffering,” Social Text, 25, 4 (2007), 1742

David Harvey , “Class-Monopoly Rent, Finance Capital and the Urban Revolution,” Regional Studies, 8, 3–4 (1974), 239–55, 240

Elvin Wyly , Markus Moos , Daniel Hammel , and Emmanuel Kabahizi , “Cartographies of Race and Class: Mapping the Class-Monopoly Rents of American Subprime Mortgage Capital,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 33, 2 (2009), 332–54

Adam Harmes , “Institutional Investors and the Reproduction of Neoliberalism,” Review of International Political Economy, 5, 1 (1998), 92121

Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez , “Income Inequality in the United States, 1913–1998,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118, 1 (2003), 1–39, 37

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Journal of American Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-8758
  • EISSN: 1469-5154
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-american-studies
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