I’m subscribed to “Gdr-economie-sociologie” – an academic mailing list of French and French-speaking economic sociologists and political economists. Receiving through this list announcements about new interesting and enlightening books and articles (in French), intellectually inviting conferences and seminars (conducted in French, usually in France), calls for papers and grants, etc — I always think, what a pity that this treasure trove of profound scholarly knowledge is not accessible to (sometimes too self-referential and self-immersed) American/English-speaking academia.
Therefore I gladly delved into an interesting paper dealing with one of the timely and important topics in economic sociology and political economy — credit, based on the social studies of credit developed in France over the past dozen years. In “A Relationship and a Practice: On the French Sociology of Credit“, Laure Lacan and Jeanne Lazarus argue that French sociology of credit, mostly centered on France, can be useful for researchers analyzing other countries, with other institutional particularities, because it proposes a specific method and a specific way to raise questions: credit is mostly understood as a result of social interactions embedded in organizational and legal structures. Lacan and Lazarus show that French researchers also deeply analyze the consequences of the organization of the credit market for inequalities, social stratification, and people’s life experiences.
But the works discussed in this article are not solely focused on credit. Many are also concerned with the entire banking system, and above all, most of them have been initiated by an interest in the budgetary practices of households. The first part of the paper focuses on French researches that have examined credit as a social test, looking at the institutional, technical, and social frameworks of money lending. Then, credit is understood as a sociological experiment: how is it integrated into household economies? How do people use forms of credit? Finally, the third part concentrates on credit failure, when a bank loan becomes a debt. This aspect is mostly framed in French sociology as “over-indebtedness,” which is an administrative and a social category.
Throughout this erudite paper, the authors address credit as both a relationship and a practice. This approach is heuristic, as they seek to demonstrate, because it enables to show that credit is a social and political issue. Concluding their analysis, Lacan and Lazarus sum up the particularities of the French sociology of credit and consider how this national subfield can enter into a dialogue with the sociology of credit developed around the world.
Taking Lacan and Lazarus’ aspiration seriously, let’s end this post with a resonant call:
Sociologues économiques de tous les pays, unissez-vous!
Wirtschaftssoziologen aller länder, vereinigt euch!
Bütün ülkelerin ekonomik sosyologlar, birleşin!
Sociólogos econômicos do mundo, uni-vos!
Economic sociologists of the world, unite! / सभी देशों के आर्थिक समाजशास्त्रियों, एकजुट!
!علماء الاجتماع الاقتصادية في العالم، اتحدوا / !סוציולוגים כלכליים של העולם, התאחדו
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