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The Icelandic Bank Collapse: Nation-Centric Masculinity Ideals and Icelandic Men’s Superiority

Þorgerður Einarsdóttir
University of Iceland
Þorgerður Einarsdóttir
University of Iceland
Gyda Margrét Pétursdóttir
University of Iceland
Open Panel

Abstract

The Icelandic financial collapse in 2008 is an event beyond comparison while at the same time expressing well known gendered patterns. A Report of the Special Investigation Commission (SIC), published in April 2010, concluded that the collapse can be traced to several reasons, among which are the rapid growth of the banks originating to the privatisation, risk-taking of the financial sector and unrestrained growth abroad and at home. The imbalance in the world economy is seen as a contributing factor but made still worse by the economic policy of the Icelandic government, such as tax reductions, large heavy-industries projects, bad housing policy, all of which contributed to an overheated economy that it needed to cool down. The paper addresses the gender aspects of the fall of the banks in Iceland 2008. A gender review of the SIC’s report reveals that the economic politics leading to the collapse had a direct and indirect gender perspective. Women were more or less absent in the financial leapfrog. In addition, the policies such as the construction of heavy industry projects, tax politics and housing politics favoured men at the expense of the female population. The financial sector was governed by a small homogenous group of men rewarding each other on the grounds of subjective evaluations. The paper explores the gendered aspects of the economic policies contributing to the collapse. It gives an account of the ways in which hegemonic masculinity and nation-centric masculinity ideals influenced the ideology behind the events leading to the Icelandic breakdown in 2008. The paper explores how the laissez-faire ideology and the Icelandic mindset of the period preceding the collapse was characterised by cultural notions of a masculinity that came to play the starring role in the continued development.