This article focuses on the discursive construction in Britain of a middle-class moral panic occasioned by the distress caused to self-styled 'responsible mortgage borrowers' by falling house prices. In the context of the move towards asset-based welfare the sub-prime crisis manifested itself most obviously in the popular consciousness as a threat to housing market wealth. The Labour government used the political space opened up by the narrative of middle-class moral panic in order to protect banks' balance sheets from the consequences of their own failed investments in mortgage-backed securities. The ensuing arrangements immunised banks from the implications of market self-regulation in the first-phase response to the sub-prime crisis while simultaneously allowing them to continue to impose the experience of market self-regulation on their customers. An increasingly asymmetric approach to banking regulation has arisen analogous to that which Karl Polanyi associated with the contradictory co-existence of market and non-market forms
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