Dissertation summary

Following a string of forced foreclosures marked by social violence and heated political clashes, by 1931 Romanian state officials came to acknowledge that almost half of the country’s rural population was effectively in a state of bankruptcy, incapable of repaying their loans to commercial banks, cooperatives or private creditors. The magnitude of the crisis was only enhanced by the Central European bank-run of 1931, with some Romanian credit institutions loudly caving in, followed by the doomed attempts of Romanian authorities to salvage a monetary system moored to the Gold Standard. Shaped by these interlacing developments, the crisis of rural indebtedness was hardly a Romanian exception, however, but rather a local instance of a global phenomenon: similar predicaments surfaced at the same time in all Eastern European countries, but also in contexts raging from French Indochina to the South American states. Globally, the financing of agriculture elicited violent spurts of debt crisis which problematized the role of agricultural production, and the social relations it relied on, within the interwar capitalist economy.

The current project tries to take advantage of the textual traces left behind by this global crisis, so that it may describe the post-1929 development of a particular type of capitalist state emerging within these semi-peripheral contexts. Thus, the theoretical wager of the research project is that the financing of agricultural production, and the social relationship of debt and credit which underpinned it, represent a privileged locus of analysis: they may evince the emergence of a new model of organizing capitalist institutions and the centrality of credit relations for its occurrence. The outcome of these changes, the post-liberal capitalism developed in Romania throughout the 1930s, represented a global co-creation: the result of a constant interaction between international institutions, global networks of expertise (The League of Nations, transnational creditors, central banks) and local class dynamics. It implied a new economic infrastructure which redefined the relationships between citizenship, the economic field and state institutions and found its expression in complex institutional reforms: the restructuring of the Romanian Central Bank after 1934, of the cooperative credit system or in the new distribution and pricing mechanisms set up for agricultural products.

More often than not these reforms represented complex assemblages, institutional collages of infrastructural elements, economic theories and information technologies that reformulated the manner in which the economic field was governed. At the same time, however, they occasioned fierce social conflicts revolving around problems such as access to credit, monetary instruments and the control of state institutions. The research project aims at following both the historically complex manner in which these complex assemblages were collated as well as the social struggles that organized their development. At the same time, it will try to take into account the international context which shaped these developments: the reformulation of monetary and trade relations after 1931. For countries such as Romania, exporters of raw materials caught in a debt trap, it will be the problem of sovereign debt-servicing which will play a pivotal role in redefining its relationship with the world economy.

In this way, the dissertation tries to provide a sociological analysis which fleshes out the manner in which the interwar capitalist crisis reconfigured the relationship between citizenship, state institutions and the economic field while paying attention the social struggles and the global context which influenced this restructuring. Focusing on the upshots of these reconfiguration in the daily life of Romanian citizens, one of the read threads of the research is the relationship between economic and political rights, between the construction of economic subjects and that of political citizens.