Rating Financialization: The Calculative Practices of Credit Rating Agencies As Drivers of Social Change
In this article, I focus on the calculative practices of credit rating agencies. By using rating agencies’ methodological publications as well as interviews with rating analysts, I identify two fundamentally different epistemic cultures of rating production that coexist within rating agencies, which I call the diagnostic and the technical approach. I argue that these differences can be traced back to irreconcilable conceptions of credit risk and their corresponding normative implications: the risk-as-danger and the risk-as-opportunity conception, the latter being inherently tied to the financial logic. By tracing these two epistemic cultures back historically, I show that there has been a shift towards a the technical approach and the conception of risk-as-opportunity within rating agencies, which contributed to the expansion of the financial logic. The argument of this paper is therefore that the evolving calculative practices of risk assessments are a concrete and specific mechanism that drives the process of financialization.