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    “Scumbag Millionaires”: the rhetorical construction and resistance of stigma during the financial crisis

    Stanley, Elizabeth (2012) “Scumbag Millionaires”: the rhetorical construction and resistance of stigma during the financial crisis. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    The financial crisis was accompanied by widespread media stigmatisation of investment bankers. This research integrates literature on occupational stigma, subject positioning and rhetoric to examine the development of tainted subject positions in media coverage and individual bankers' responses to such positioning. It draws on two influential media sources - opinion columns from The Sun and BBC correspondent Robert Peston's blog - and interviews with nine investment bankers at three time points. The empirical material covers the development of the crisis between April 2008 and October 2009. The analysis identifies two specific sites of contest: the morality of bankers’ pay and responsibility for the financial crisis. The media construct vividly stigmatising subject positions for all bankers which become increasingly physically tainted as the crisis develops. Interviewees resist these, differentiating between themselves and the occupational group. They concede the accuracy of taint regarding pay for some bankers but not for themselves, claiming instead self-positioning as normal, hard workers. The media stigmatisation regarding responsibility appears less compelling and interviewees focus on the contributory roles of other players rather than discussing personal or occupational culpability. In claiming credibility of voice, the media either emphasise similarity and identification with readers (The Sun) or superior knowledge (Peston). Interviewees accuse the media of over-simplification and scaremongering and position themselves as informed insiders and voices of reason. The analysis highlights that stigmatisation is a contest over the validity of what and who are tainted and the authority to make such pronouncements. It reinforces existing findings on the link between taint and dirt in constructing stigma. It also suggests the weakness of occupational identity as a resource for investment bankers. The findings could suggest that while construction of a simple, tainted identity for bankers was effective, using this to establish blame was more complex.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2013 11:34
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 11:50


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