Bricolage, Agnotology, and Myths of Canadian Exceptionalism

Authors: Dylan Simone*, University of Toronto
Topics: Economic Geography, Geographic Theory, Legal Geography
Keywords: Financialization, Financial Risk, Financial Literacy, Crisis, Canada
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Capitol Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Despite being only a decade from the global financial crisis, predictions and warnings of the next crisis have already begun to sound. In Canada, household debt levels have continued to increase, and property bubbles in its major cities – notably Toronto and Vancouver – are now ranked among the five largest worldwide. Like many nations, Canadian policy post-crisis focused on enacting programs of financial literacy in an effort to redistribute financial risk from the state and industry onto individuals and households. Unlike many nations, however, Canadian banks, regulators, and agencies have unilaterally espoused the myth that Canadian banks did not require a bailout in the crisis, and that Canadian banks are the envy of the world for their fiscal prudence, transparency, and stability.

This paper analyzes transcripts from a (2018) investigation by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance (FINA) into Canadian banks’ sales practices. Bringing together policy makers, bank executives, and elected officials – united in their praise of Canadian bank sales culture, backed by myths of Canadian exceptionalism – the FINA transcripts expose Canadian financial policy and its actors as engaging in political improvisation and the production of ignorance. In contradistinction to their preferred myths, this paper proposes financial policy and regulation in Canada as being driven by processes of bricolage and agnotology. The implicitly scalar and regressive redistributions of financial risk between households, corporations, and the nation-state are on full display, illustrating why post-crisis finance in Canada is different, despite remaining the same.

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