Journal Article 2

Mikuš, M. (2019) Contesting household debt in Croatia: the double movement of financialization and the fetishism of money in Eastern European peripheries. Dialectical Anthropology 43(3): 295-315. DOI:


Croatia has experienced a marked boom in household debt in the 2000s. Much of this lending took high-risk and predatory forms that transferred significant risks to debtors, which in turn became the target of contestation by debt activists. This paper uses the Polanyian idea of ‘double movement’ to show how the Croatian debt contestations responded to the distinctively peripheral form of financialization in Eastern Europe, characterized by unequal geoeconomic relationships and an intensified expropriation of debtors. This framework further highlights the importance of money in contemporary credit/debt relationships and their contestation, which has so far received insufficient attention in relevant anthropological scholarship. Instead of the currently fashionable credit theories of money, the paper uses the Marxian concept of the fetishism of money to unpack the roles of money in these processes. The analysis of discourses and practices of two groups of debtors and activists reveals how they used nationalist ideological frameworks and institutional channels such as litigation, again largely ignored by existing anthropological literature, to challenge the particular inequalities of peripheral financialization and the expropriation of debtors through the lenders’ predatory manipulations of the money fetish.

Keywords: Contestation, Croatia, Eastern Europe, Household debt, Money, Financialization 

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GEOFIN Blog #2 – Contestations of the financialization of housing in Croatia and Hungary