'Life is about risk management': Lay finance and the generalization of risk thinking to nonfinancial domains

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This article examines the financial discourse on insecurity using a case study of the promotion of lay finance in Israel. Based on an analysis of financial courses, conferences, online texts and books that are designed for the lay public, the analysis shows that promoters of financial market engagements use everyday stories of marital and work-related insecurities-stories of divorce, betrayal, abandonment, unemployment and the like-to illustrate that economic risks are ubiquitous. Their stories render risk-thinking a general practice of knowing that is applicable to everyday life. At the same time, the stories shift the focus from the statistical meaning to the symbolic meaning of the risks taken. They present the risks of key social institutions as symbols of personal weakness, helplessness or humiliation, and grant the impersonal risks of financial markets a relative advantage. Analysing these findings from the perspective of the sociology of knowledge, I argue that lay financial discourse marks a radicalization of neoliberal discourse as studied by Foucault and that it is characterized by a much broader deconstructive scope than currently acknowledged. Its focus on frightening insecurities deconstructs the social knowledge that constitutes key institutions, exacerbating and feeding on their dissolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-486
Number of pages18
JournalSocio-Economic Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • Israel
  • everyday finance
  • investing
  • lay trading
  • marriage and family
  • work

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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