Honorable Mention in the 2018 Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award, sponsored by the ASA Section on the Sociology of Consumers and Consumption.
In this era where dollar value signals moral worth, Daniel Fridman paints a vivid portrait of Americans and Argentinians seeking to transform themselves into people worthy of millions. Following groups who practice the advice from financial success bestsellers, Fridman illustrates how the neoliberal emphasis on responsibility, individualism, and entrepreneurship binds people together with the ropes of aspiration.
Freedom from Work delves into a world of financial self-help in which books, seminars, and board games reject "get rich quick" formulas and instead suggest to participants that there is something fundamentally wrong with who they are, and that they must struggle to correct it. Fridman analyzes three groups who exercise principles from Rich Dad, Poor Dad by playing the board game Cashflow and investing in cash-generating assets with the goal of leaving the rat race of employment. Fridman shows that the global economic transformations of the last few decades have been accompanied by popular resources that transform the people trying to survive—and even thrive.
About the author
Daniel Fridman is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.
"A refreshing and rigorous analysis of financial self-help that gets to the heart of identity formation in neoliberalism. Fridman has a keen eye for the 'personal' dimension of financialization and its 'democratisation.' This is sociology at its best."
—Peter Miller, London School of Economics
"What explains the global appeal of financial self-help books? Freedom from Work provides crucial insights. A gifted observer, Fridman's ethnographic account uncovers a unique blend of morality and economics in self-help groups pursuing their dream of financial freedom. This book contributes to economic and cultural sociology but will also fascinate general readers."
— Viviana A. Zelizer, Lloyd Cotsen '50 Professor of Sociology, Princeton University
"A wonderful portrait of how financial technologies of the self work in modern culture. In observing players of a financial board game, Fridman effortlessly oscillates between rich ethnographic description and serious analytical depth to dissect the painful retooling that people perform in pursuit of an elusive 'freedom from work.' "
—Marion Fourcade, University of California, Berkeley
"For those of us who escape gladly to our offices on Monday morning, meanwhile, the promise of longer weekends isn't very compelling. But the idea of starting a conversation about how we distribute our time might be. The catch is that this conversation itself needs and takes time. That's what's so interesting about Freedom from Work's description of workers reading and playing board games on the job: even if they don't get rich, they've been reading and meeting to talk about books. "
—Christina Lupton, Public Books
"The book is a lively and well-written account of ongoing cultural transformations. Fridman is particularly clever in connecting empirical facts with theoretical claims, and the book presents several avenues for further reflection."
—Felipe Gonzlez, Economic Sociology - The European Electronic Newsletter
"Based on careful ethnographic research, this book provides a compelling account of how financial self-help followers aim to change their economic thinking, adopt new practices and thereby reach financial freedom...Any researcher interested in economic sociology, neoliberal governmentality and the materiality of the financial world should read [this book]. Further, this would be good place to start for a reader interested in the reflexive capacity of ethnographic research."
—Tomás Undurraga, Estudios de la Economía
"The greatest strength of Freedom from Work is its fascinating case setting...[Fridman] writes respectfully and carefully about his research subjects, even when their beliefs appear illogical or bizarre. Such careful ethnographic and interview work is admirable and makes for a crisp read...Fridman provides a well-written exploration into a fascinating community of persons whose enthusiastic support for neoliberalism adds important variation to our understanding of how individuals respond to shifting economic conditions. General readers curious about unique financial cultures will enjoy the rich ethnographic description and international case comparisons. And because the book documents theories of governmentality and performativity in interesting and unusual contexts, it will make a useful addition to undergraduate and graduate courses in economic or cultural sociology."
—Laura Doering, American Journal of Sociology
"Daniel Fridman's Freedom from Work: Embracing Financial Self-Help in the United States and Argentina is an outstanding comparative ethnography of the rise and spread of financial self-help groups in the United States and Argentina...I can't think of many books on the development of financial self-discipline, or finance for that matter, as enjoyable to read as this one. Fridman is both witty and compassionate. His portraits of the many characters a less careful analyst would not hesitate to dismiss as con artists are at once critical and respectful."
—Simone Polillo, Contemporary Sociology
"Freedom from Work is an insightful and well-researched book that shows one way in which neoliberal subjects are nowadays produced. Any researcher interested in economic sociology, neoliberal governmentality, the materiality of the financial world and ethnographic research, should definitely read it."
—Tomás Undurraga, Cultural Sociology