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    The financial life of funerals before death

    Fletcher, Samantha and McGowan, William (2023) The financial life of funerals before death. In: Death, Dying and Bereavement: new sociological perspectives. Sociological Futures . Routledge BSA Sociological Futures. (In Press)

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    Abstract

    This chapter explores the financial life of funerals before death. Focusing on funerals as commodities, we argue that future sociological research into death, dying and bereavement should be critically attuned to the extractive value of mourning rituals. Existing studies illuminate no end of practical, emotional, and symbolic meaning-making, as these relate to familial relations, kinship networks, and work settings, yet frequently do so with little explicit appreciation of the underlying political-economic context structuring such activity. Coupled with new and emerging possibilities for body disposal and funeral services, as well as shifting sensibilities toward death more generally, this has led many sociologists to highlight the dynamics between funerary tradition, religion, technology, and contemporary culture, as manifest through individual consumer choice. Adopting a broader view of ‘the social’ in order to emphasise the generalising drive of money-capital, we argue that rapid expansions in preneed funeral markets have occurred in an attempt to fix some of capitalism’s most elementary and persistent crisis tendencies. We explore some contradictions and consequences of this expansion, before concluding with some possible questions for sociologists of death and dying to pursue in the future.

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