Debt as Power

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 radical and wide-ranging book provides an innovative critical analysis of an alarming scourge of our times: debt. Developed as a critique of the categories of money and credit as technical and socially neutral categories in neoclassical economics, 'Debt as Power' provides an economic anthropology – at once historical and international - of the origins, intensification and socially deleterious consequences of debt as a technology of power. Derived from the Marxist theoretical framework of differential accumulation and conceiving of capitalism less in terms of a relation between exploiter and exploited and more as a relation between creditor and debtor, the study reads the international history of capitalist debt with strikingly new results. It opens up a new perspective on the origins of debt within the context of England's 17th Century's bellicose geopolitical context, emphasising the capitalisation of the English/British state and its indebtedness to private investors. It moves on to explore the transatlantic spread and intensification of debt – private and public – through war, commerce, and colonialism. And concludes with an analysis of the further role of odious debt after WWII in the production of inter-state and domestic inequalities. The book ends with a call to arms: debt strike! 'Debt as Power' immeasurably advances our understanding of the international history of debt as a technology of power. It constitutes a fresh and important contribution to critical IR and IPE.'
2017 Sussex International Theory Prize - Honourable Mention

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