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Accepted Paper:

Debts, interest rates and justice: conciliation hearings between consumers and financial institutions  


Viviane Fernandes (Museu Nacional UFRJ)

Paper short abstract:

The paper describes meetings among consumers, financial institutions representatives and State agents in order to negotiate debts. It aims to explore how questions about justice and fairness are brought up into discussions about credit, debt, interest rates and financial accounts.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is based on a one-year field work in a Public Defender Office in Rio de Janeiro and describes the work of a Consumer Protection Center - a group of experts which offers legal support for people to negotiate their debts with financial institutions. It focuses on the meeting between people (the ones who seek assistance from the Center) and the different professionals, all of whom are mobilized in their services - whether they are State agents or representatives of financial institutions. Since the study takes as its point of view the Consumer Protection Center service desks, it is possible to examine, not only how people understand and justify the debts and other financial problems they face, but also how the State agents and representatives of financial institutions mobilize to respond to the demands. The proposed paper aims to explore how questions about justice and fairness are brought up into discussion about credit, debt, interest rate and financial accounts. Giving special attention to the use of notions as "good/bad client" or "good/bad payer" the paper describes how different forms of calculations (FERREIRA, 1997; WEBER, 2002) are employed to discuss debt numbers. Ordinary people and financial institution representatives consider different rationalities in their mathematical operations - and such discrepancies generate conflicts that go beyond the ways of pricing money, questioning the notion of justice, human dignity, financial institutions activities, and even the role of protection of the State.

Panel P038
Human worth in austere times: transformative welfare regimes, human needs and public policy