This book describes the explosion of debt across the global economy and related requirement of political leaders to pursue exponential growth to meet the demands of creditors and investors. It presents a historical account of the modern origins of capitalist debt by looking at how commercial money is produced as debt in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The book identifies the ways in which the control, production, and distribution of money, as interest-bearing debt, are used to discipline populations. It focuses on the histories of the development of the Bank of England and the establishment of permanent national debt with the intensification and expansion of debt, as a "technology of power", under colonialism in a global context. The book investigates the modern origins of debt as a technology of power by focusing on war, the creation of the "national" debt, and the capitalization of the organized force of the state. It addresses the consequences of modern regimes of debt and puts forward proposals of what needs to be done, politically, to reverse the problems generated by debt-based economies. The book utilizes the term "intensification" rather than spread or proliferation to think about both the amplification and spatial expansion of debt as a technology of power during the era of European colonialism and resistance. Finally, it also presents a convincing case for the 99" to use the power of debt to challenge present inequalities and outlines a platform for action suggesting possible alternatives.
This chapter argues that debt within capitalist modernity is a social technology of power and its continued deployment heralds a stark utopia. Debt instruments effectively divide society into debtors and creditors within a power structure that vastly privileges the latter over the former. The chapter presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book traces the origins of debt as a technology of power to a confluence of events in seventeenth-century England. It argues that the invention of a funded long-term national debt was principally born to aggrandize the power of what Justin Rosenberg has called "the empire of civil society". The book examines the sovereign debt crisis in the so-called heartland of global capitalism or what Pettifor has called the "coming first world debt crisis".
This chapter argues that the key to understanding debt as a technology of power is not just to appreciate that modern money is largely created as debt by commercial banks but to point out that the production and allocation of money is privately owned. It examines how debt became capitalized by organized power and finds its genealogy rooted in war, the national debt, and the capitalized state of England. While the birth of the Bank of England can be traced to the scarcity of money debates of the seventeenth century, the ultimate reason for its creation was not the Hartlibian improvement of society but to finance war against Europe's most powerful ruler, Louis XIV. The key development occurs with the creation of the Bank of England in 1694 and the innovation of a funded long-term national debt capable of being serviced by the ever-growing regressive taxation on the public.
This chapter illustrates both the amplification and spatial expansion of debt as a technology of power during the era of European colonialism and resistance. A key moment in the resistance to colonial taxation is the Bambatha Rebellion, an armed revolt in the Natal region of South Africa personalized by the name of its minor Zulu leader. The chapter demonstrates how networks of indebtedness reconfigured political communities for the benefit of creditors and capitalists and how this continued on after formal colonialism started to come to an end in fits and starts after the Second World War. By 1875, dispossession, indebtedness, and burdensome taxes were so widespread throughout the Deccan that cultivators directed their anger at the vanis and rioted. The chapter concludes with a brief examination of the sovereign debt crisis in the so-called heartland of global capitalism.
This chapter examines briefly the history of the growth paradigm and the dilemmas that it poses. Debt is a technique and pattern that is being applied in developed countries as well, and may be as odious as the debt foisted upon the developing world. The chapter also examines why maintaining the necessary rate of growth becomes more difficult, and why it necessitates yet more debt and the continuing acceleration of environmental degradation and differential power accumulation. It suggests the difficulties of changing the environmental, political, and social trajectories within the existing political economy by briefly examining the question of who controls the future of food and energy. The chapter reconsiders Thomas Piketty's work by examining the acceleration of differential power or inequality in light of the author's analysis of debt as a technology of power.
This chapter offers twelve solutions, most reflecting those proposed by others, that would become a political platform of a Party of the 99". It suggests the steps necessary to implement these proposals and a political strategy based on the idea that debt is a technology of power that can be utilized by debtors, as well as creditors. Because of the economic insecurity wrought by the 2008 financial crisis and the defunding of pension plans by governments and municipalities bankrupted by debt, retirement is out of reach for many. For debt to be maintained as a technology of power exercised by the 1" requires a financial, legal, and ideological structure that vastly privileges the creditor over the debtor. The purpose of the debt action is to hold capital accountable and to restore balance to economic relationships.