Algorithmic scoring systems provide novel ways to sort larger populations of borrowers, consumers, employees and benefits recipients more finely. Such algorithmic regimes of classification enable more efficient capture of value (in the form of rents) outside of traditional sites of production. This paper considers how distributional claims making has evolved in response to the use of algorithms and digital platforms to more profitably discriminate between market participants and extract information rents. More specifically, the paper interrogates an emerging form of collective distributional politics, which I call the moral economy of the serial crowd. This serial crowd is one in which individual acts of algorithmic and digital selfcare (e.g. credit building and monitoring, social media profile curation, self-tracking, etc.) are imagined to “scale up,” and together constitute a collective act of “self-protection” from predatory economic actors, and morally (re)order markets. To understand why this style of social claims making has assumed salience in the current conjuncture, the paper analyses (i) past movements to redress inequality and discrimination while appearing to respect existing distributions of resources and entitlements, and (ii) the refiguration of the crowd from a problem to be managed by elites to a “wise” exploitable problem solver (Wexler, 2011). The paper then discusses contemporary examples where serial crowds are associated with various moral economic orders from Go Fund Me campaigns to debt resisters manuals, the “Black Lives Matter” debit card and credit building peer lending circles.
The financialization of urban development occurs even under conditions of credit constraint. The paper demonstrates that credit scarcity is an important and under-examined driver of policy improvisation and institutional development. Using the case of Tucson, Arizona, we show that local and extra-local interests overlap and cross-pollinate to produce unique hybrids – geographically specific and contingent institutional forms cultivated by local growth machines to attract outside financial interests. These dynamics are illustrated with a sales-tax-based tax increment financing district that employs “enhanced financings” to attract extra-local sources of debt and equity. We find that the financialization of urban development in the credit-constrained city is not just a process of abstraction, but also of particularization in which extra-local dollars flow through embedded local networks. We conclude with a call for greater attention to the intersections of finance and urban life in “ordinary cities”.
This paper is about how people are learning to ‘make themselves up’ in response to the market’s new algorithmic ways of seeing. More specifically, it explores how the self-datafication of informal financial relations is being used to affect the calculation of credit score. I argue that credit score functions as a legal technology of arbitration beset with contradictions that are giving rise to inchoate struggles over the distribution of calculative agency in consumer credit markets. Drawing on an ethnographic case study of credit building peer ‘lending circles’, the paper explores how financially marginalized groups and financial inclusion advocates are reacting to the blind spots and biases of credit scoring algorithms through compensatory and transgressive data-generation practices.
Economic geographers have deployed a variety of spatial categories (e.g. scale, territory and border) to describe and theorize the spatiality of market making and marketization processes. This paper supplements these accounts with insights from the work of post-structural geographers “oriented toward the site” (e.g. Woodward et al 2010; Schatzki 2005 italics added). To this end, the paper introduces the notion of the marketsite. Marketsites are points where heterogeneous elements are brought together and assembled in an effort to realize the conditions required for the performance of model markets and market subjectivities. Using the example of “smart” disclosure, the paper argues that the use of disclosure labels to improve consumer decision-making has transformed the point of sale and other transactional junctures into incipient marketsites – niches where various behavioral techniques are deployed to summon into being subjects who behave as if they were homines economici. The behavioral turn in economics has focused the market-making efforts of a variety of actors on the market subject and strategic sites in people’s everyday lives where they can be guided and “nudged” into alignment with market models. Together such marketsites delineate a new, and largely uncharted, geography of encounter between (behavioral) economic theory and actually-existing markets. Drawing on fieldwork developing and testing a fee disclosure box for a prepaid debit card, I show that the production of marketsites, where homo economicus can survive, is a messy process that rarely succeeds. Regardless, such efforts reveal valuable insights into how the behavioral turn in economics is reshaping the spatiality of market-making processes.
In December 2014, Lending Club became the world’s first peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platform to go public, reaching a valuation on the New York Stock Exchange of nearly $9 billion (USD) on its first day of trading – a higher valuation than some of the largest banks in the United States (e.g. Comerica and CIT Group). With considerably less fanfare, four months earlier, a little-reported amendment was made to California’s Financial Code. Passed with bipartisan support, California Senate Bill 896 was designed ‘to encourage nonprofit organizations to help facilitate the making of zero interest loans, through [peer] lending circles.’ The driving force behind the bill was a San Francisco financial nonprofit called the Mission Asset Fund (MAF), which since 2008 has worked to expand its flagship peer-lending circles program. MAF’s Lending Circles (LCs) are formalized versions of rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCAs), similar to the tandas or cundinas common in the Latino community the organization was established to serve. What sets MAF’s LCs apart from informal ROSCAs is that the payments LC members make to each other are reported to credit bureaus, providing participants with a way to build a credit history.
This paper excavates recent legislative efforts to construct a national space for the purchase and sale of consumer credit risk in the United States. During the mid-1990s and early 2000s the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA 1970) was amended several times in an effort to produce a national space in which consumer credit risk could be priced in ‘‘place-free’’ terms. This effort to produce a national consumer credit space provides insight into several extant and emerging issues in financial geography. First, the recent history of FCRA shows how the (re)production of financial relations at a national level can reshape financial relations at other scalar levels, and vice versa. Second, it reveals that processes of financial subject formation are more closely tied to the production and reproduction of geographical scale than has been previously demonstrated. Finally, I argue that the rescaling(s) that have attended the amendment of FCRA have reworked the relationship between individuals and their virtual financial selves (i.e. credit reports and scores) in ways that have created new tensions, contradictions and sites of struggle in the nascent post-crisis politics of financialization.
The paper presents an alternative to scholarship on the distributional politics of finance that emphasizes citizenship-based claims to new financial rights. To compensate for the dominance of exclusion-based etiologies of financial marginality in financial geography, I reframe financial exclusion as a problem of financial government—that is, as a problem of conducting the conduct of risky populations without threatening the security and autonomy of financial markets. Drawing on Foucault’s distinction between technologies of discipline and security, I describe how barriers to the extension of financial government create tiered processes of financial subject formation. The inchoate “subprime” financial subject produced is the correlate of a specialized financial governmentality—a homo subprimicus eminently governable by financial means. I close by calling for greater attention to questions regarding the relationship between technologies for valorizing bare life, new systems of financially mediated value extraction, and emerging capitalist class processes.