Politics of the Debt


This essay attends to the specifics of the debt economy within contemporary finance capital: its production of profit, credit, money, taxes, and derivatives; its control of institutions and its organizational techniques; its relation to the State, to banks, to industry, to labor, and to consumption; its management of risk and of cycles of boom and bust; and so forth. It offers a detailed account of debt as a generalized means of control and a powerful mechanism for generating, maintaining, and multiplying inequalities. Yet “debt” is not so much “sovereign” as characteristic of a quasi-sovereignty that remains susceptible to conflicts and contradictions. Thus, the essay asks questions about the limits of debt and debt accumulation. It also debates the possibility of debt cancellation, notably in the context of intensifying instabilities surrounding both the concept and practice of ownership or property.