Spatializing the future: financial expectations, EU convergence and the Eastern European Forex mortgage crisis
Subject: expectations, mortgage markets, foreign-currency lending, future, Hungary, financial crisis
Existing accounts of failure to predict the financial crisis focus on the complexity of the financial system, and are less useful for understanding crises in non-securitized markets. We examine the roots of optimism leading up to the Eastern European mortgage crisis through the case of Hungary, and use recent theories of expectations, which understand them as both pragmatic and fictional practices that commonly incorporate narratives. Based on archival research and interviews with bankers, regulators and legislators, we demonstrate how the EU convergence narrative was central in forming optimistic expectations. Fusing the underspecified convergence process with an orientalist geographical imaginary, this narrative and its associated measures translated growing indebtedness as ‘catching up’ with Europe, de-emphasized exchange rate risk through a belief in European convergence and precluded crisis scenarios originating in the European Union. Our findings contribute to theories of how economic expectations are formed, stabilized and maintained by developing the concept of ‘spatializing the future’, denoting practices that handle uncertainty by charting the future as movement in concrete geographical or abstract space, along externally verifiable pathways.