Foreign Exchange Mortgages As Market Devices.

Friday, 3 July 2015: 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
CLM.2.06 (Clement House)
Mikolaj Lewicki, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland
What if we took the concept of a market device and applied it to the observation of relations between households and financial market, mediated by the mortgage? And we treated the mortgage credit or rather – its monthly rates as market device intervening and reconfiguring relations among households? This study refers to such a theoretical operation in order to propose a new vantage point to observe relations formed in and around financial markets and argues that this perspective can not only shed more light on the “market device outside the financial/capital market” but predominantly enables to understand coping with market instability among households, gradually more dependent on the financial markets’ flows.

This paper examines households’ strategies of coping with the Swiss Franc denominated or indexed mortgages, particularly when the fluctuating exchange rate plays the role of a test – a trial of households moral, economic and social relations that are associated with their sense of autonomy and moral projects of a better life to be fulfilled in the newly purchased house with the mortgage (Boltanski Thevenot 2006, Boltanski Chiapello 2002). This assumption can help to consider relation of mortgage and credit-holders not in terms of causal dependence – mortgage as an external factor impacting the autonomous household but rather to see this relation as an agencement in which mortgage is a part of a specific setting of relations and relationships providing new patterns of behavior and practices in everyday life. The study refers to the research on the population of ca. 700 thousand Poles who took on mortgage denominated or indexed in Swiss Franc buying predominantly new apartments. Examining the notion of a household in economic sociology I argue that households can be defined as networks of relations that are reconfigured by the credit. I refer to the framework of Thevenot and Boltanski Economies of Worth in order to demonstrate how the ways of coping with market instability are associated with various valuations articulated by the respondents – credit holders and differentiate social relations formed among households and their social and institutional environment.