Promises of tomorrow. Calculations of the future in today's financial practices

    Reception: February 3, 2021

    Acceptance: February 17, 2021

    The omens of tomorrow shape the present. The future is visualized under the filter of promises and dreams, but also of fears and threats resulting from interpretations of one's own and other people's experiences, and the expectations of what tomorrow will bring can be read in today's financial practices.

    It is therefore surprising how little attention has been paid to the exercise of scrutinizing economic expectations from an anthropological perspective. As Jens Beckert (2016) clearly shows, those who ignore the role of true uncertainty and fictitious expectations in market dynamics do not understand the nature of capitalism. And, as the author says, economic forecasts are important not because they produce the futures that predict, but because they create the expectations that in turn generate economic activity.

    Nothing more accurate to describe the current moment, in which the pandemic has set the brakes of the world economic system to grind. It is difficult for the world to imagine that this was even possible, as Latour (2020) puts it well. The expectations for this critically uncertain future harbor confusion, fear and hopelessness, which, in turn, come to mobilize, in many cases, greed and opportunism, but also collective actions and resistance. The authors participating in this section explore such imaginaries. They put on the table the visions of the future, the expectations and the resistance of different actors around their economy, highlighting the ways in which this impacts their financial practices.

    The problem of calculating the future in financial practices has been a recurring theme in the Seminar on the Anthropology of Money and the Economy that we organized in the ciesas West. The articles in this section have been the object of discussion and dialogue in that seminar; In them, the imaginaries of the future are explored from different sectors of society in Mexico, Ecuador, Chile and the Basque Country.

    The works not only show the ways in which financialization processes have been installed with the preponderance of economic lives almost totally dependent on virtual money as a result of indebtedness, but we also see people building their lives around it, exerting their efforts in the Procurement of a better life, or at least stable. In this process, the economy is mobilized largely based on debt, that is, money that does not yet exist can be activated in the present with the expectation that they will materialize in the future.

    Sayuri Gallardo, for example, discusses the daily economic life of middle-class families in Mexico City, families that depend heavily on a salary, a pension, a tiny sale of jellies or some pastry, but invariably, debts. Debts that they estimate to be able to pay in the near future based on their work. Their expectations are based on a belief in a system that rewards those who work with responsibility and persistence. The interpretation of their misfortunes tends to be associated with bad luck, a mistake or some bad move, although some of the actors involved in the study do deny the system that suffocates them. The author starts from a long-term ethnography of five households to analyze the financialization of savings and the impact that this has had on dreams and imaginations for the future of households. The imposition of an individual capitalization model with the reform of the pension system of the imss in 1997 and the creation of the figure of Voluntary Savings. The households in question face, says the author, a conflict between spending and meeting the needs of the present, or saving and preparing for the events of the future. He explains that in the face of this panorama, a neoliberal subjectivity exemplified in the figure of the businessman himself is gaining ground, where the subject assumes as his own the responsibility of anticipating his old age, illness, unemployment and death through savings, thus assuming labor rights as goals. individual. By providing an overview of the different families studied, the author manages to account for flawed patterns in the formulation of somewhat misleading but overwhelmingly prevalent expectations in Mexican society.

    On the other hand, the Chileans presented by Lorena Pérez Roa feel deeply deceived by the expectations generated that with a higher education they will achieve stable and well-paid jobs. Higher education was seen as a sure lever for social mobility. But the magnitude of the unpayable debts that such expectations have generated is the object of outrage and protest. Massive marches and social outbreaks have been violently repressed.

    The article explores the negotiations carried out by young adult and professional couples in a context of high economic pressure caused by indebtedness. Part of the fact that in couple relationships the acquisition, uses and payment strategies of debts are built, discussed and negotiated. To do this, based on the analysis of 34 semi-structured interviews with young couples and debtors, it explores three types of negotiations, including adjustments to future projects that couples carry out based on the projection of payment of their assumed commitments. Like the families Gallardo studies and the Basques Aboitiz analyzes, for many Chileans access to credit has come to function as an extension of salary. In Chile in 2020, household debt constituted almost 75% of income. The informants claim to "cycle" the debts to make ends meet. And as one of the protesters says: "violent is going into debt to continue surviving."

    Here the calculability frameworks come into play, the socially constructed limits within which it is possible to conjecture, forge expectations and make plans (Callon, 1998; Villarreal, 2008, 2010) based on available information, in which considerations are implied. of value and conjecture about the possible costs - both social and monetary - as well as the probability of success or failure.1 These frameworks delimit the possible options for the forging of economic and financial forecasts, from the estimation of the salary that is deserved to the destination of the income, passing through justifications of inequalities in the distribution. They also contribute to structuring factors of accessibility and vulnerability.

    It is not that one is able to freely choose between a range of options, as it seems to be proposed from a rational choice perspective (rational choice perspective). Decisions are subject to the constraint imposed by the economic, social, cultural and emotional relationships in which they interact.

    People resort to calculations or "scores" of the near and medium future, and in the delimitation of coordinates for action, emotional issues such as shame, fear and resistance to "show need" are also taken into account, in conjunction with access to information, the existence of bonds of trust and notions of security. The humiliation of borrowing influences the shaping of your financial practices. This can increase your transaction costs, while restricting your options and horizons.

    This is accurately explained in the text by Uzuri Aboitiz, who analyzes the social processes that are generated after deindustrialization in Basque society. It shows that people do not calculate solely on the basis of monetary gains and losses: sometimes they respond to an immediate need, sometimes to an emotion (joy, fear, insecurity, for example), or simply act on impulse.

    The author takes the case of a city that was known as “little Manchester” in the Basque Country, where material progress was one of the central axes of the parents' calculations. The society that tasted the honeys of industrialization and bet that this would continue to bring them well-being and wealth, falls from a prosperous past to a precarious present and an uncertain future in the wake of deindustrialization. The author explains how hopes are reconfiguring in the face of a future of uncertainty and unpredictability.

    The ascending aspirations of parents are evaporating in the expectations of their children, who limit themselves to betting on a safe and stable place, and resign themselves to a future without pensions.

    Different scenario presents Maria Fernanda Solórzano, who penetrates the realities of those who inhabit the depths of the Amazon jungle and live largely in an economy of collection without the desire to accumulate. Rather, their expectations of the future are influenced by the need to maintain the spiritual life of the airo, the nature that surrounds them and on which their chances of survival depend to a great extent. For them it is important to protect their territory, because here the manifestation of being, thought, practices, memory, spiritualities and economy of the Siona crystallizes.

    The Siona began to experience the monetarization process from the 1950s on. They still barter fish for pots, meat for shotgun shells. The Summer Institute of Linguistics appears prominently in Siona history and began to reward them with money for their work. Then the Chinese company Andes Petroleum makes small gifts in exchange for being allowed to extract the oil in their territory. He provides them with some money for gasoline for their boats, for the purchase of material to make their robes, and promises two or three salaried jobs for the Siona, who prefer to work for short periods, just to meet some need. important, or where appropriate, buy a motorcycle to travel to the nearest town. In the same way, they reject employment in palm cultivation because it is a daily job that prevents them from doing the most important ones, which are hunting, fishing and sowing a little piece of land.

    It is interesting to see another version of resistance to wage labor, now in Guadalajara, presented by Ducange Médor. In both cases it is a different perspective from formal employment. Médor's informants, who are, as he puts it, from an industrialized social class, are particularly opposed to the imperative of making work the axis of life. They consider it nonsense to give their lives to work and engage in activities of social interest and utility. Most also tend to reject the logic of capitalism. This strongly marks their way of perceiving the future and dealing with uncertainties. They argue that the certainty that work grants is a weakness insofar as it restricts creativity and takes away from problems and challenges. Planning for a future of stability is uncertain, it tends to marginalize many things that one wants to prioritize. One of the informants claims that he is frightened by the possibility of losing contact with the outside world. After all, he says, something is going to come out.

    Criticism of the capitalist logics of work is shared in the cases studied by Elizabeth Chaparro, but these are also critical of the type of commerce and consumption, speculation, the fetishization of money, social inequality and environmental degradation as a result of the capitalist world. . The bet is that another world is possible.

    The author introduces us to the everyday world of those who promote and consume community and domestic gardens, agro-ecological producer fairs, local markets, consumer and housing cooperatives, time banks, barter networks and alternative currencies. It presents us with an interactive map where the reader can measure the phenomenon in Guadalajara, identifying the different initiatives in their geographical location and identifying their specificity.

    The recent proliferation of a range of alternative economy initiatives in Guadalajara given the fragility we live in these times provides a glimmer of hope. New expectations are built, forms of social organization aimed at managing the satisfaction of needs outside of conventional markets, in which community building, the possibility of autonomy and the recovery of the environment are sought.

    This not only opens the panorama to new worlds, but to new economies and new expectations.


    Beckert, Jens (2016). Imagined Futures. Fictional Expectations and Capitalist Dynamics. Cambridge y Londres: Harvard University Press.

    Callon, Michel (1998). The Laws of the Markets. Oxford: Blackwell.

    Latour, Bruno (2020, 30 de marzo). “Imaginer les gestes-barrières contre le retour à la production d’avant-crise”. aoc. Recuperado de, consultado el 22 de febrero de 2021.

    Villarreal, Magdalena (2008). “Sacando cuentas: prácticas financieras y marcos de calculabilidad en el México rural”. Crítica en Desarrollo: Revista Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales. Dossier La vida social de la economía, núm. 2, pp. 131-149.

    — (2010). “Cálculos financieros y fronteras sociales en una economía de deuda y morralla”. Civitas. Revista de Ciencias Sociales, vol. 10, núm 3, pp. 392-409.

    Magdalena Villarreal she is a doctor Cum laude in Anthropology from the University of Wageningen, in the Netherlands. Senior Research Professor C of the ciesas West. sni Level iii. He has coordinated multiple research and evaluation projects with Mexican and international institutions. He is currently conducting an international seminar on money, economics and finance from an anthropological perspective, in coordination with the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion at the University of California at Irvine. His publications include Anthropology of debt, Women, finance and economic violence in marginalized neighborhoods of Guadalajara, Microfinance in the interstices of developmentor, Juggling Currencies in Transborder Contexts and Microfinance, Debt and Overindebtedness.

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