Greta Krippner, University of Michigan

Lecture Title: 
Possessive Collectivism: Ownership and the Politics of Credit Access in Late-Twentieth Century America
Speaker(s): 
Greta Krippner, Department of Sociology, University of Michigan
Semester: 
Winter 2013
Lecture Time: 
Friday, March 1, 2013 (All day)
Lecture Location: 
Room K1310, Ross School of Business
Abstract: 
Possessive Collectivism: Ownership and the Politics of Credit Access in Late-Twentieth Century America Why has ownership become so salient as a discourse for making political claims in contemporary U.S. society? One widely held view is that the discourse of ownership has always been deeply rooted in American political culture. According to this view, the United States is Lockean at its core, a nation founded above all else on the rights of individual property holders. But while it would be folly to deny the Lockean substratum of American political culture, we should at the same time be wary of arguments that view Americans’ enchantment with ownership as simply hardwired, an innate trait immune to the forces of historical contingency. In this paper, I suggest that the salience of the discourse of ownership in recent decades reflects the capacity of ownership claims to transcend perennial tensions between liberal notions of individual rights and the collective practices necessary for the exercise of those rights. I make this argument by examining the history of three movements that sought to democratize access to credit in the United States beginning in the late 1960s: 1) the welfare rights movement’s campaign to extend department store credit to welfare recipients; 2) feminist mobilization to end gender discrimination in credit markets; and 3) the struggle of community activists against the practice of redlining urban neighborhoods.