Whose social? Marketization, finance, and the remaking of social services in the United States

Authors: Dan Cohen*, , Emily Rosenman, University of Toronto
Topics: Economic Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: financialization, marketization, education, housing, social finance
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Washington 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the wake of the financial crisis, reflections on the nature of the crisis led many in the financial sector to argue for a new, “moral” practice of capitalism. Rather than reflecting on the role of financial speculation in creating the crisis, this philanthropically-tinged post-crisis capitalism is premised on the idea that corporations and financial institutions can balance out their extraction of private value by “giving back” to society. As we have documented elsewhere (see Rosenman, 2017), this search for a moral capitalism has led to an elite-led project of applying financial and market logics to social services in search of a blend of profits and social good. This paper interrogates the legitimation of social inequality through a comparison of two such extensions of finance into social services delivery in the United States: in low-income housing and public schooling. We analyze how these interventions frame market ideologies as ‘moral,’ as well as the ramifications for low-income tenants and public schools of the particular practices and technologies used to make these sectors legible to financial speculation. Running throughout this interrogation is a focus on the question of whose ‘social’ is being advanced – and where – through these projects and how traditionally public services are being reconfigured after the financial crisis through the twin forces of marketization and financialization.

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