Theses Doctoral

Dynamics of Attribution of Responsibility for the Financial Crisis

Nicol, Olivia

Many recent books and articles have aimed to account for the recent financial crisis. They have exposed the facts, identified the causes, and assigned responsibility. They have proposed solutions to prevent a similar crisis to happen in the future. The debate is still ongoing, revealing a process of History in the making. My dissertation builds on this debate, but it does not contribute to it. I do not try to understand who is responsible for this crisis. I instead try to grasp how responsibility for this crisis was constructed. I explore the production of - and response to - a discourse of accusation. To study accusation discourses, I conducted a media analysis of three main national newspapers: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. I show how a blame game dominated by Democrats participated in the crystallization on Wall Street’s responsibility. To study responses to accusation discourses, I conducted thirty-three interviews in three Wall Street banks from Fall 2008 to Summer 2010. I show that bankers became increasingly defensive over time, while never accepting any personal responsibility for the crisis. Similarly, they reject the label of the “greedy banker.” Overall I argue that the complexity of modern social arrangement loosens the intrinsic connection between responsibility and accountability.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Stark, David C.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 6, 2016