This essay examines the constitution of gendered norms for personal financial attitudes and behaviors through the production and circulation of knowledge, especially statistical articulation of populations, across the domains of popular culture, marketing research, and legitimate social science. It thus addresses a nexus of two central features of neoliberalism: governmentality and financialization. It argues that gendered norms play a key role in articulating neoliberal norms more broadly. Specifically, negative, pathologized, portrayals of women as impulsive shopaholics on one hand and paralyzed non-investors on the other indicate the boundaries of responsible entrepreneurial subjectivity. At the same time, these portrayals, found across a range of discursive sites, proffer images of proper femininity and masculinity, to be achieved through the enactment of different configurations of financial attitudes and behaviors. Noting the diversity and internal contradictions implicit in responsible entrepreneurial subjectivity (really, subjectivities), the essay concludes with a consideration of the implications of the current financial crisis and concomitant shifts in the evaluation of gendered behaviors.
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1. The focus groups were undertaken in preparation for “Wave 2” of a longitudinal survey-based study of financial attitudes and behaviors initiated by colleagues in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences. To my knowledge there has been no published analysis of the focus groups and this paper certainly does not constitute such an analysis. The larger research project—Arizona Pathways to Life Success for University Students (APLUS)—has been led by Soyeon Shim (former Principle Investigator) and Joyce Serido (formerly Co-PI and Project Manager, now PI). Serido designed (with some input from me), organized, and co-facilitated the focus groups. Funding for the APLUS project has been provided by the National Endowment for Financial Educationw (NEFE) and more recently by Citi Foundation. An overview of the project and the results of the “Wave 1” survey are described in Soyeon Shim et al (2010). The results of “Wave 1.5,” which surveyed a subset of the study participants with the intention of understanding the impact of the recession of 2007–2009, are reported in Shim and Serido (2010b). Wave 2 results are reported in Shim and Serido (2011). See also Joyce Serido et al. (2010). 2. See also Dean (1997) and Rose (1999).
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