The Financialization of Everyday Life in Vietnam


Single Panel


Session 1
Wed 11:00-12:30 Room 3.10



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In recent years, it is impossible not to notice the growing level at which the everyday life of ordinary Vietnamese people has become financialized. Consumer loans, private insurance of all kinds, including life insurance, app-based credits, stock markets, are suddenly everywhere to be found. Not long ago, one even heard of the launch of a state-approved private pension offer by a financial investment company. Not only have financial products and their intermediaries but also their associated logics of risk-taking, risk management, and self-enterprise entered everyday life and discourses of most people. No longer targeting only high-income and moneyed people, national and transnational financial institutions now extend their reach to low-income groups such as migrant workers or farmers, who have until recently little exposed to their operations. Indeed, it seems that the aspirations of low-income people for financial control of their life and their lack of social protection are providing the very opportunities for some financial actors, such as predatory lenders or betting platforms, to cash in. During the pandemic, this has helped to increase the indebtedness and destitution that already occurred to many due to the loss of livelihoods and employment.

This panel explores the ongoing political economic and social processes that are occurring as part of the increasing financialization of everyday life in Vietnam through the practices, motivations and operative logics of financial actors and ordinary people. We present ethnographic studies of life insurance sellers, debt collectors, migrant workers and others at work in their engagement with financial activities and rationalities. They indicate the ways in which financialization is enabled by the interaction between the de-responsibilization of the state, discourses that promote self-responsibility and self-entrepreuneurism as the pathways to wellbeing and development, and people’s aspirations to become part of the (modern) financialized world. On another level, we show how financial institutions work through local social networks and relations in order to expand while feeding on their logics of care and gift-exchange to make profits. Everyday financialization, we argue, has significant implications for social relationships, moral subjectivities and the future wellbeing of ordinary people.