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Degrees and Honours

BA Sociology from Leeds Metropolitan University , MA Social Research, PhD Economic Sociology from the University of York.


Dr Matthew Sparkes is an economic sociologist. He joined the Department of Sociology in 2014, and he now lectures for the Social Science Research Methods Centre (SSRMC) and Cambridge Undergraduate Quantitative Methods Centre (CUQM), delivering a range of quantitative and qualitative research methods courses. 

Matthew’s research explores the intersections between social class(ification), consumption, debt-based finance, and political economy. His previous work has explored savings variations amongst participants of the Great British Class Survey, the role of personal credit and debt in class making and struggle, and the origins of the economic ideas of financialisation in Britain. His current project examines the stratifying effects of financial classifications, by tracing their effects on people’s identities and life chances. 

Matthew has a first degree in Sociology, a master’s in Social Research and a PhD in Economic Sociology from the University of York. He is also an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA). He has engaged in several widening participation initiatives, including work for the Realising Opportunities programme, the Sutton Trust, and StepChange Debt Charity.

Research interests

Matthew’s main research interest is in social class. This has led him to explore literature on credit and debt, identity, stigma, consumer culture, cultural class analysis, media studies, and political economy. His research is conducted in an emergent discipline of class analysis that investigates classificatory struggles. The discipline seeks to demystify the classifications and discourses mobilised to contain social phenomena caused by specific socio-economic practices, along with the values and norms they establish, in an attempt to uncover the institutional, cultural and economic landscape governing people within contemporary Britain. Matthew recently completed a study that examined these processes. The project examined the relationship between credit/debt, neoliberal social and economic policies and governance, social class and rising inequality in the UK, placing the rise of credit and the impact of this in an historical context. Matthew drew upon qualitative interviews with individuals using the services of a debt charity, to explore how inequality creates processes of insecurity triggered by classificatory struggles and whether credit is used to navigate and ameliorate its effects. He is now currently working on a project exploring how stigma surrounding problem debt and insolvency is crafted and circulated by political actors and debt collection organisations to induce compliance in debtors. Overall, Matthew’s research strives to challenge readings of inequality as the result of moral and individual failure and instead seeks to illuminate how inequality and its effects are produced through contemporary modes of governmentality for specific purposes.

Publications (selected)

Sparkes, M. and Wood, J. (2020). The Political Economy of Household Debt and the Keynesian Policy Paradigm. New Political Economy

Sparkes, M. (2019). Borrowed identities: class(ification), inequality, and the role of credit-debt in class making and struggle. The Sociological Review.

Sparkes, M., Gumy, J. and Burchell, B. (2017), “Debt: Beyond Homo Economicus”, in A. Lewis (ed), Cambridge Handbook of Psychology and Economic Behaviour (Second Edition), pp. 198-233, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sparkes, M. (2016). Teaching through leadership. The Sociology Teacher, 5(3), 10-15