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Colombini, Crystal Broch

Summer 2015, 45:2, pages 117-137

Speaking Confidence: Bubble Denial as Market Authoritative Rhetorical Decorum

Abstract: From the early to mid 2000s, economists, pundits, and other commentators engaged in heated debate about the possibility of a bubble in the U.S. housing market. Prognosticating in a variety of public forums, debaters divided along largely ideological lines, with adherents of mainstream neoclassical economics producing a forceful narrative accord that a bubble was unlikely or impossible. Approaching this debate as a case of the powerful discourses that strive to keep markets intervention-free, this essay explores market bubbles as sites of discursive tension and professional stigma, seeking to understand how the allegation of a bubble imbricates expectations of decorum and provokes a constraining rhetorical response. With particular attention to the phenomenon of “bubble denial,” I highlight how rhetorical strategies of definition, insult, and risk dismissal functioned to sustain market confidence, discredit bubble predictors, and habituate decision makers to evolving market risk.

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