On the other side of the Subprime Crisis: How German people save and invest money? And what are their constructions of trust, control and blame?
Sociology Munich University Munich, Germany
Strategy & Planning Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich Munich, Germany
The Subprime Crisis, it is said, is caused by lending too much money without demanding enough securities. But on the other hand ? and this is seldom scrutinized ? the Subprime Crisis could only happen because there was so much money, searching for investment possibilities. China, Japan and Germany produced more than they consumed, building up high savings and with it high national account surpluses. The same asymmetry can be seen within the EU, with e.g. Spain, Greece and Ireland as debtors and Germany as the main lender.
Before this background our research focuses on how, why and when ordinary German people save and invest money. Traditionally the German middle class has a strong resentment against inflation, therefore backing up the German Bundesbank in its Europe wide crusade against state debt, high wages and a "weak Euro". Alarmed by the demografic discourse about the "aging society", people were scared for not receiving enough retirement benefits and thus guided by financial consulting to save more money. In the same moment the financial sector was deregulated to offer more risky investments to ordinary private households. Thus, decisions about saving should have become more individualised in the full sense of individualisation theory. This means that everybody should be aware of alternatives, chances, and risks, and feels responsible for the results ? but this is, of course, an empirical question. What are the constructions of trust and control when people save money? Whom do they scapegoat for losses, to whom do they attribute gains? What are historical differences now and in the past, bearing in mind that the Great Depression was one of the main causes for the rise to power of the Nazi regime?
Theoretically, our research is inspired by the risk society thesis of Ulrich Beck and by Christoph Deutschmann's observations about the roots of the financial crises in the social structure of advanced industrial societies. Methodologically, we are mainly working with content analysis of the financial discourse and with narrative interviews of individual savers.