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The austerity of time: living with neoliberalism, financialization, and difference in London’s Docklands

Vieira, Jordan Patrick (2021) The austerity of time: living with neoliberalism, financialization, and difference in London’s Docklands. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004243


Based on twenty-four months of ethnographic fieldwork that drew upon relationships cultivated over several years, this thesis explores how abstract time is materialized in the everyday lives of people on the Isle of Dogs in London. Bound by the Thames on three sides and a series of interlocking quays on the fourth, the Isle of Dogs is the geographically distinct heart of London’s Docklands that had historically been home to a homogeneous white, working-class community for nearly two centuries. This changed with the closing of the docks, the financialization of the British economy, increased (im)migration of finance professionals alongside the proximal construction of the Canary Wharf financial hub in the 1990s, and the austerity policies of recent governments. Against this backdrop of a shrinking state, market competition, and political upheaval evidenced by the UK’s departure from the European Union, the thesis argues and investigates four core points. First, that issues of time are vital, though often taken-for-granted and underexplored, aspects of social life that deserve explicit ethnographic engagement in various registers of lived experience. Second, that constructions of time, continuity, and money are mutually constitutive of each other and generative of widespread impatience exacerbated by a sense of time lack and imminent rupture. Such anxiety manifests in various interrelated social issues seen in part in housing, crime, ideas of belonging, and class tension. Third, given the above, that time and money share congruent notions of transaction and management, which form particular social practices and interpersonal relationships. Finally, that these points underscore a tension between competitive accumulation and social accommodation (and the conditions under which people vacillate between the two) amid desires to create or prolong desired actualizations of lifestyle and social reproduction within an ultimately finite (differentiated) living present. The thesis examines these themes through the lens of a pub with a precarious existence and the life courses and rhythms of its landlords, staff, and patrons. It follows an overarching narrative that concludes with the pub’s closure, an event that encapsulates and exemplifies the key points discussed throughout.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2021 Jordan Patrick Vieira
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: James, Deborah and Allerton, Catherine

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