Debt and the Indebted Person


What is it about “you must repay your debts” that allows even the best of people to justify the worst human actions?

It is very much worth your time to at least listen to the 65 minute lecture below by anthropologist & author David Graeber. My buddy-friend-guy, Christopher P., has been carefully going through Debt: The First 5000 Years. Not a quick read; plenty of information that you can garner even opening the text at random (which is mostly how I have done on my Kindle).

The text has made me dip back into Adam Smith & Karl Marx but also brought me back to certain aspects of Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari‘s Anti-Oedipus as well as Nietzsche‘s Genealogy of Morals. For Christmas, I bought Christopher a copy of The Making of the Indebted Man. This reinforces the insights from Nietzsche and the scholarship of Graeber while taking up Deleuze & Guattari for some real practical thinking about how the Society of Control is actually NOT about Globalized finance but globalized debt.

I am really not sure that anyone who wants to flourish in our current circumstances can do so without comprehending how profoundly all of our exchanges have been reworked in the form of debts. Nor do I believe that anyone can really detach from Control if there is no recognition of how the narrative of identity is so thoroughly confounded indebtedness to family, friends, teachers, government, corporations, etc etc.

For that matter, if we think about Gautama Buddha‘s own awakening beneath the Tree at Bodh Gaya, we see a three step detachment from the conditions of indebtedness. First, he lets-go of desires. Then, he lets-go of fear. Finally, he lets-go of duty.

Each is an aspect of entering into a kind of violent struggle which enslaves a being through the enforcement of inequality: the debt generated by intemperate craving, the debt generated by abject terror, the debt generated by pseudo-obligations.

Only through the loving-struggle can there be liberation, can there be any detachment from this grand narrative of indebtedness.

Enjoy the video!

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