EGMT 1530: Financial Lives

We live in a financialized world. Almost all of us have aspects of our lives that are deeply intertwined with, and shaped by, the financial sector. You have, most likely, taken out student loans to be in this classroom. You probably have a bank account too. You use your credit card or debit card, and increasingly less often cash, to pay for your everyday needs. You probably do not own any property yet, but your opportunity to do so in the future will be determined less by any individual action you take than by the lending policies of banks. You may not own any financial securities like stocks or bonds (yet), but these too shape your lives in often invisible ways: by putting economic pressure on cities, states, companies, and institutions to act in certain ways to satisfy the demands of their bondholders and investors. Finance has built itself into the everyday infrastructures of modern life. Despite finance’s ubiquity and seeming adherence to strictly economic principles, its effects in the world are starkly differentiated by race, class, and gender. The racial wealth gap in America is staggeringly large. The gender pay gap still exists. And the global poor are almost entirely shut out of access to basic financial services. But these phenomena did not come out of nowhere. They are the product of historical structures. This class is an attempt to think through the history of finance and difference, and to explore how notions of social and cultural difference have shaped the economic operations of finance and how, in turn, finance has shaped our notions of difference.