Credit Ratings, Crisis, and Environmental Exposure

Authors: Benjamin Rubin*, CUNY - Graduate Center
Topics: Economic Geography, Hazards and Vulnerability, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: Environmental Racism, Environmental Justice, Finance, Risk, Racial Capitalism, Extractivism, Oil, Gas, Mining
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Galerie 5, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

How do elites and managerial actors translate social struggles, demands, and crises through a lens of maintaining profitability and ability to govern? How is finance part of the abstracting process of quantification and re-interpretation? Specifically, how do credit ratings and Credit Rating Agencies (such as Moody’s and Standard & Poors) allow for material struggle, unrest, and calamity to be processed and made into quantifiable measures legible to state and financial actors? How do the abstractions of credit ratings and reports enforce financial goals in other realms of life? In this paper I will discuss my framework for grounding the study of finance capitalism as constitutive of racial capitalism, by exploring how a financial gaze relies on, exploits, and reproduces racial difference; while simultaneously erasing race in its rendition of global and local events. I will use a pair of case studies to show that credit-rating as crisis response can be seen across different scales, at the scale of municipal governance and of industry wide expansion. I argue that the power of credit-rating as enforcer of neoliberal common sense leads to bodily exposure to toxic harm and premature death, both in the context of abandonment and urban fiscal crisis, and in the credit fueled boom and bust cycle of extraction.

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