Too good to fail: Managing financial crisis through the moral economy of realty TV

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This article thinks about citizenship and media in the context of the recent "financial crisis," and the role of a collapsed real estate market in the crisis. Specifically, the article examines the transformations and recent legacy of what the author refers to as realty TV, a vein of Reality TV programs oriented toward the virtues, pleasures, and rewards of capitalizing on home improvement and investment during the first decade of the 21st century. The article considers the historical contradictions of realty TV's demonstrations of the virtues of the home makeover (as self-enterprise, self-actualization, and self-investment) before 2008, and the contradictions of realty TV's role in reproducing a new "moral economy" of self-responsibilization in the wake of the subsequent financial crisis. This latter moral economy developed partly in response to the rapidly increasing number of home owners who were unable to meet the requirements of their mortgages and who then voluntarily abandoned their homes and mortgages because of their inability to recoup equity in these homes. The article is particularly interested in how this recent history of realty TV provides a perspective for thinking about the recent financial crisis in different terms and examples typically used to explain the crisis by political economists. By examining how a moral economy for managing financial crisis has been produced through television "programs" which serve as technical resources for maximizing personal financial security and for managing the insecurities and instabilities of house and home as "investment opportunity," the article also suggests ways that television is being reinvented within new technologies of self-government and citizenship. And in that way, the article considers historical determinations shaping TV and its relation to other media/technologies not typically addressed in media studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)382-402
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Communication Inquiry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • (Reality) television
  • governmentality
  • homo oeconomicus
  • house/home
  • moral economy
  • real estate
  • securitization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Too good to fail: Managing financial crisis through the moral economy of realty TV'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this