Going into Debt

The financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent “Great Recession” have often been seen as crises of debt and credit. Political economists have attempted to unravel the financial instruments – the subprime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations – at the heart of the crisis; but debt and credit raise central questions for cultural studies as well. Why do we lend and borrow? Is debt the foundation of social life of a community? What is the relation between debts in money and debts in kind, material and moral debts? What happens when debts cannot be paid? What is the relation between debt and memory, between debt and our vision of the future? Is there a link between debt and narrative? What are the narratives of debt that structure our experience of the “debt crisis”? The Working Group on Globalization and Culture has embarked on a collaborative research project to analyze the cultural meanings of debt, looking at the long-term place of debt and credit in human society as well as the dramatic increase in personal debt and international state indebtedness over the last half century.

Going into Debt was published online by Social Text in their Periscope series in 2011, and was presented at Occupy Harvard and Occupy Boston.

Dreamworlds of Debt

by Amina El-Annan on September 10, 2011

The German philosopher Ernst Bloch in his massive tome The Spirit of Utopia, devoted an entire section to what he called ” Little Daydreams”. Overflowing each page are mystical and impressionistic descriptions of phenomena like wishful thinking, social utopias, daydreams, hope, Marxism, technological utopias, art, utopian blueprints, fairy-tales and myth, excitement, travel logs, and various...