The blame game for the financial crisis (2007-2010) : a sociological theory of fields of accusation
Title: The blame game for the financial crisis (2007-2010) : a sociological theory of fields of accusation
Author: NICOL, Olivia
Series/Number: EUI MWP; 2016/03
This article introduces a sociological theory of blame games, focusing on the recent financial crisis in the United States (2007-2010). Many actors could be held responsible for the crisis. Such a situation is socially explosive, leading to an intense blame game, which finds its resolution when a main culprit is found. Blame games are not irrational outbursts of anger, but rather, structured and dynamic processes of boundary drawing. They are power games, mediated by public discourse, which lead to a reassertion of collective values. I develop my theory by studying three national newspapers (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today) from August 2007 to June 2010. I present a statistical, network and content analysis of the 5,712 blaming incidences identified. I show how when the financial system exploded, blame moved in many directions, but mostly focused on the political sphere. Through public speeches, congressional hearings, and public investigations, the political sphere managed to refocus the attention on Wall Street. A blame game dominated by Democrats led to the crystallization of Wall Street's culpability. Such crystallization could not be predicted ex-ante.
Subject: Blame games; Responsibility; Financial crisis; Disasters; Unsettled times
Type of Access: openAccess