Abstract: Bankrupts' Destinies: The Social and Economic Effects of Business Failure in a Small Finnish Urban Community at the End of the 1870s

Riini Turunen


A certain kind of cultural historical grand narrative of Western bankruptcy portrays how attitudes to and therefore experience of bankruptcy became worldly during the nineteenth century. From this viewpoint my paper examines the faiths of market-orientated people who went bankrupt during the first years of the Long Depression in Jyvaskyla, a small town in central Finland. The research is conducted through actor-level in-depth analysis of ten individual bankrupts and will show how the social and economic spheres of life were inextricably linked. In the paper, bankruptcy is approached through the concept of threat, meaning that the financial troubles exposed an economic actor's and his family's social standing and economic ability to danger. In this respect the paper concentrates on how business failure might influence social relationships, social participation—or exclusion, and the ability to maintain or reproduce previous wealth, power and prestige. Therefore the paper pays attention not only to bankrupts' financial recovery—incomes, satisfaction with financial situation, business re-entry—but also to the social consequences of bankruptcy. This is studied through the variables of moving, being invited to serve as a godparent, and commissions of trust in relation to bankrupts' former social standing. Essentially, the paper aims to study whether bankrupts' social capital facilitated their recovery from ruin.