Class Implications of a Mortgaged Economy: Reflections on Building a Sociology of Debt

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Mondoux, Justin Robert




This thesis examines the democratization of debt and its role in the formation and maintenance of the new middle class (NMC) in Canadian society. Through explicitly linking the concept of debt to the intensification of labour, class discourse evolves beyond the economic reliance on income and property holdings to encompass the social trade-offs that accompany the decisions to enter into debt relations and assume repayment obligations. Drawing on the history of debt and shifting moral views on debt it is shown how debt provides a common language that mitigates class conflict and creates the conditions for life-long employment as oversight mechanisms regulating indebtedness parallel changes that accompanied the transformation of work. A case study of microcredit further depicts how the extension of debt provides individuals with the capacity to create their own ‘risk-biographies’ within a limited set of outcomes. Semi-structured interviews with retirees were conducted to supplement the secondary research and focused on the ‘lived-class’ experience. The interviews were analyzed using a phenomenographic approach that explored how debt knowledge is acquired, transmitted and used to maintain middle-class lifestyles. Topics of investigation included first experiences with debt, views on debtors, co-signing loans, comfort levels with financial instruments such as stocks and overall financial awareness. The research findings provide the foundational elements for the continued evolution of the sociology of debt as a means to locate the NMC and to assess the collateral being deployed to remain in good standing.


Social Structure and Development




Carleton University

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