Rediscovering the money in credit/debt: exploiting and contesting the mobility of money in Croatian household debt
Marek Mikuš (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)
Paper short abstract:
A critical analysis of mainstream, mundane forms of money and their pragmatics, so far largely neglected in the anthropology of credit/debt, reveals the importance of specific ways of exploiting and contesting the mobility of money for the social relations and politics of household debt in Croatia.
Paper long abstract:
Croatia has experienced a marked boom of household debt in the 2000s, which was to a great extent funded by crossborder capital flows. In the context of insufficient regulation, much of this lending was highly exploitative and entailed significant risks for debtors. This paper stresses the importance of a critical analysis of mainstream, mundane forms of money and their pragmatics, so far largely neglected in the anthropology of credit/debt, for understanding the social relations and politics of Croatian household debt. The lenders' profit-making strategies are interpreted as particular ways of exploiting the mobility of money: single-currency "carry trade" (borrowing in a low-yielding currency, lending in a high-yielding one) in foreign currency (FX) household lending, and irregular crossborder mortgages servings as means of expropriation of debtors in the Croatian lending by Raiffeisen credit-savings cooperatives from Austria. The paper shows how these mobilities make use of what Marxists theorize as the fetishistic attributes of money (interest rates, exchange rates, fees, derivatives) and the ideological and institutional elements of the "community of money" (e.g. legal contracts) as well as the materiality of specific forms of money (e.g. cash) and the affordances of relevant state regimes of regulation. At the same time, these mobilities of money become objects of questioning and critique by activists who delegitimate these forms of household lending as illegitimate and/or illegal state-sponsored speculation, expropriation and money laundering and call for limiting the mobility of money and the acceptable manipulations of the money fetish.
How mobile is money? Fixture and flow in emerging monetary regimes