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Embracing RiskThe Changing Culture of Insurance and Responsibility$
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Tom Baker and Jonathan Simon

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780226035185

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226035178.001.0001

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

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

(p.97) Five Imagining Insurance: Risk, Thrift, and Life Insurance in Britain
Embracing Risk

Pat O̓Malley

University of Chicago Press

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

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