Venturing inside the collections company

The strategic management of affect |

Chapter 4 explores the sometimes strange world of consumer collections in part through the eyes of collections call centre workers, arguing that they too can be seen as a ‘market devices’, of central importance to the contemporary collections industry. The chapter’s analysis begins with a single collections conversation. It uses this to explore the analytical challenges of assessing a mode of interaction that, on the face of it, seems to bear only partial relationship to the highly emotionally charged landscape of default described by debtors. It concludes that, in tracing the variable modes of market attachment enacted by the collections industry, it is necessary to see linguistic interaction as only one of multiple, co-present, not necessarily successful ‘modes of ordering’. The chapter proceeds to trace the central problem of ‘market attachment’ that the collections industry is still presented with. The challenge for the debt collector is not to attach borrowers to their credit products, as legally they already are. Instead, the challenge is to reattach value to the product. In order to analyse this problematic, the chapter argues for the productivity of placing into dialogue the analysis of the capture of affect with Franck Cochoy’s analysis of practices of ‘captation’. In so doing, we learn more about the role of experimentation in the industry by examining the increasing deployment of experimental, econometric modes of analysis to both predict and respond to the actions of debtors. These kinds of technologies draw on the emergent, anxious states of debtors, which offer themselves up to the collector as potent affordances for processes and practices of ‘affective captation’.

[Text adapted from the introduction of Lived Economies of Default]