Financial governance ‘after’ crisis: On the liminality of the global financial crisis and its ‘afterwards’, through a gender lens

AuthorPenny Griffin
Date01 November 2017
Publication Date01 November 2017
SubjectSpecial Section Articles
2017, Vol. 37(4) 402 –417
© The Author(s) 2017
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DOI: 10.1177/0263395717720932
Financial governance ‘after’
crisis: On the liminality of the
global financial crisis and its
‘afterwards’, through a
gender lens
Penny Griffin
UNSW Sydney, Australia
Interrogating the assumption that we live in a time ‘after’ crisis, this article explores financial
crisis, recovery and ongoing questions of governance and intervention through a gender ‘lens’.
It locates the ‘afterwards’ of the global financial crisis as central to understanding how particular
relations of gendered power have been able to prevail in producing a world of governance post
‘post-crisis’. Asking what the limits, and liminality, of global financial governance are ‘after’ crisis,
the article argues that governance responses to the crisis can be understood in gendered terms:
in their efforts to stave off the potential instability of an undecided, ambiguous and potentially
unpredictable economic space, and as concentrating power in the hands of financial elites,
particularly, elite groups of white men.
crisis, finance, gender, governance, liminality
Received: 7th June 2016; revised version received: 28th April 2017; Accepted: 28th April 2017
As of 2016, the global financial crisis is widely described as historic. That is, it is under-
stood as an ‘event’ of the past, a global economic ‘meltdown’ from which the world has
moved on. Although the effects of this crisis are ‘still being felt today’ (Lowy Institute
n.d.), by 2010, leading economic officials had declared the world subject to a ‘post-
crisis’ era. By 2015, some had even decided that national economies had moved into a
post ‘post-crisis’ era (see Capital Group, 2016; The Guardian, 2015). Interrogating the
assumption that we live in a time ‘after’ crisis, this article explores financial crisis,
Corresponding author:
Penny Griffin, School of Social Sciences, UNSW Sydney, Kensington, NSW 2052, Australia.
Special Section Article
Griffin 403
recovery, and ongoing questions of ‘liminal’ governance and intervention through a gen-
der lens. Here, financial governance is defined as liminal because it exists ‘in between’
death and recovery, such that it is neither recovered (‘well’) or failed (dying or ‘dead’),
but importantly may also be both. Policy efforts to reform ‘after’ the crisis encounter a
liminal system, ambiguous and ‘in between’ failure and recovery; a system that is not
actually ‘after’ crisis. Deploying a gender discourse theoretic approach, this article
explores the gendered liminality, or ‘in betweenness’, of financial governance, suggest-
ing that we might read the conditions by which the global financial system has moved
from ‘crisis’ to ‘post-crisis’, and the imposed but unstable linearity of ‘afterwards’, as
vulnerable to gendered critique.
This article argues that the temporal bounding of the financial crisis is a discursive
construct deployed to impose a kind of order on financial crisis and its governance, to
gendered effect. It speaks to broader research on gender, finance and the global political
economy to ask that we take seriously how certain people’s knowledges, and particular
relations of gendered power, have been able to prevail in systems of social and economic
life. The article explores how the governance of crisis and the post ‘post-crisis’ period
have relied, as has the governance of finance more broadly, on the reproduction of nor-
malised, ‘natural’ and acceptable human behaviours and expectations. Particular norms
and standards in the global political economy (especially those related to standards of
appropriately responsible, competitive, profitable, and rational economic behaviour) cir-
cumvent what can be known, and done, therein. Though they are held in the hands of and
emanate from diverse locations and actors, private, state and public, these norms and
standards are also culturally specific, evolved from historically and culturally conditioned
decisions about who holds, or should hold, authority. It is less important that financial
services are dominated by men (they are, but only at senior levels) than that global finance
is governed by dominant models of behaviour that have become, subsequent to the con-
centrating of historical privilege in the hands of white men, associated with masculine
subjectivities. In this way, understanding the liminality of crisis governance, that is, the
ambiguity of processes of being in between, is related significantly to understanding the
gendered regulations that have rendered legible the financial crisis and its governance.
The analysis that follows seeks to establish a more accurate, but also more unstable,
understanding of crisis and its governance as existing within a liminal (temporal and
physical) space in the contemporary global political economy. It first considers how limi-
nality applies, conceptually, to reading financial crisis and its governance, in gendered
terms. It then turns to consider the limits of governance responses to crisis in terms of the
gendered liminality of governance, examining the psychological and social conditions
that have enabled post ‘post-crisis’ governance discourses to reproduce a particular vision
of the ‘best way forward’, and to what effect(s).
The liminality of financial crisis and its governance
The generalised meaning of ‘crisis’ has often, conceptually, invoked understandings of a
liminal phase of transition, frequently through references to medical, or medicalised,
interventions. These indicate a decisive moment, or turning point, in an illness (a striking
change of symptoms that may or may not lead to recovery). Both recovery and death,
then, mark the ‘threshold’ of crisis. A system’s inability to be entirely one thing or the
other, either recovered or failed, determines its liminality. For the global financial crisis,
and the system of global finance of which it is (was) symptomatic, understanding the

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