The culture of moral disengagement and harm production in the City of London's financial services industry

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Through Huggins et al.’s (2002) conceptualisation of violence work, the article presents the processes through which individuals and groups morally disengage from the production of social harm. In doing so, the article explores cultures of legitimation and moral disengagement that function within the City of London’s financial services industry. Despite the well documented nature of the harms emanating from finance, it is often difficult to see the human agency involved (Sarat and Culbert 2009). Consequently, there remains a lack of attention paid to the embedded cultures and rule systems that legitimise the production, opposed to impact, of social harm. Bringing into focus in embedded cultures and dominant rule systems that legitimise the production of social harm, the article highlights three themes of deniability: occupational insularity; a dominant regime of knowledge; and personal disengagement. Addressing each in turn, what emerges is the mundane ways in which finance workers enact, legitimise and reproduce the conditions of harm production in the course of their occupational life. The article turns the lens of critical inquiry from an impact agenda of social harm to a production agenda and offers a detailed understanding of the ways social harms are both produced and legitimised in the day-to-day functioning of occupational life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-133
JournalJustice, Power and Resistance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • Violence work
  • City of London
  • Cultural finance studies
  • Ethnography
  • Moral disengagement
  • Harm production

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