Accepted paper:

Crisis, ritual, and economic change: clients in default and the renegotiation of bank loans during the Romanian financial crisis


Narcis Tulbure (Bucharest University of Economic Studies / University of Pittsburgh)

Paper short abstract:

I explore the ritual aspect taken by changes in economic regimes and their underpinning cultural values. I focus on the interactions between clients in default and credit collection departments of banks and conceptualize the periodic financial crises as ritualized contexts facilitating the renewal of capitalism and its regimes of accumulation.

Paper long abstract:

My paper focuses on the re-scheduling of credit contracts and the negotiation of loan repayment by Romanian bank clients facing default. Precipitated by the increasing interest rates during the financial crisis of the last years, the portfolio of default loans of foreign-owned banks in Romania has reached alarming levels as over 1 million bank customers among the 4.3 million employees in Romania are unable to repay their loans. Pressed by the banks to continue the repayment of loans and threatened with property repossession, many such people adopt a variety of tactics ranging from deferred payments and delayed reimbursement of principal, to strategic default, asset alienation and even dramatic attempts at suicide. Focusing on the interactions between clients in default and credit collection departments of banks, I treat such encounters as ritual performances where previous life choices are questioned, the basic values permeating economic practices are reevaluated, and future possibilities emerge out of liminal experiences. Such ritual interactions - happening, to a certain extent, under all economic circumstances, multiply spectacularly during episodes of economic crisis. Periodic crises have been considered inherent to modern economies illustrating the limits of capitalist accumulation by both leftist thinkers and international financial economists. Acknowledging these literatures, I go beyond the structural aspects of the crisis and consider it as a ritualized context and rhetoric device through which capitalism renews itself. New regimes of accumulation premised on changing cultural configuration and new forms of personhood emerge from ritual crises with the simultaneous demise of those preceding them.

panel W120
Economy and ritual