Imagining Insurance: Risk, Thrift, and Life Insurance in Britain

Pat O̓Malley

in Embracing Risk

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2002 | ISBN: 9780226035185
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226035178 | DOI:
Imagining Insurance: Risk, Thrift, and Life Insurance in Britain

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This chapter analyzes insurance visions among the working class in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain. It describes how insurance actively constructed individual and social responsibility during this period, tracing how the governance of insurance organizations reflected changing ideas about the moral development of the working poor. In the process, the chapter links what the author and François Ewald call insurance “imaginaries” (what we call insurance “visions”) to political rationalities. Shifting ideas about thrift, risk, and insurance correspond to broader political transformations: from the classical liberalism of Gladstone, to the welfare liberalism of Beveridge, and finally to contemporary neoliberalism as illustrated by Thatcher's politics. The chapter charts a transformation in the triangular relationship between thrift, risk, and insurance. Transformation took place through the working out of insurantial imagination, not simply class interest, market pressures or actuarial techniques.

Keywords: life insurance; social responsibility; insurance organizations; neoliberalism; market pressures; insurance visions

Chapter.  8003 words. 

Subjects: Company and Commercial Law

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