Governing by Debt

Governing by Debt


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An argument that under capitalism, debt has become infinite and unpayable, expressing a political relation of subjection and enslavement.

Experts, pundits, and politicians agree: public debt is hindering growth and increasing unemployment. Governments must reduce debt at all cost if they want to restore confidence and get back on a path to prosperity. Maurizio Lazzarato's diagnosis, however, is completely different: under capitalism, debt is not primarily a question of budget and economic concerns but a political relation of subjection and enslavement. Debt has become infinite and unpayable. It disciplines populations, calls for structural reforms, justifies authoritarian crackdowns, and even legitimizes the suspension of democracy in favor of “technocratic governments” beholden to the interests of capital. The 2008 economic crisis only accelerated the establishment of a “new State capitalism,” which has carried out a massive confiscation of societies' wealth through taxes. And who benefits? Finance capital. In a calamitous return to the situation before the two world wars, the entire process of accumulation is now governed by finance, which has absorbed sectors it once ignored, like higher education, and today is often identified with life itself. Faced with the current catastrophe and the disaster to come, Lazzarato contends, we must overcome capitalist valorization and reappropriate our existence, knowledge, and technology.

In Governing by Debt, Lazzarato confronts a wide range of thinkers—from Félix Guattari and Michel Foucault to David Graeber and Carl Schmitt—and draws on examples from the United States and Europe to argue that it is time that we unite in a collective refusal of this most dire status quo.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781584351634
Publisher: Semiotexte/Smart Art
Publication date: 01/23/2015
Series: Semiotext(e) / Intervention Series , #17
Pages: 280
Sales rank: 619,762
Product dimensions: 4.50(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Maurizio Lazzarato is a sociologist and philosopher in Paris. He is the author of Governing by Debt and Signs and Machines: Capitalism and the Production of Subjectivity, both published by Semiotext(e).

Table of Contents

Introductory Glossary 7

1 Profit, Rent, Taxes: Three Apparatuses of Capture 27

2 The American University: A Model of the Debt Society 61

3 Critique of Governmentality I: Does Liberal Governmentaiity Exist? Has It Ever Existed? 91

4 Critique of Governmentality II: Capital and the Capitalism of Flows 131

5 Critique of Governmentality III: Who Governs Whom, What, and How? 177

6 Rereading Lenin: The Past and Present of Finance Capital 213

Conclusions for a Beginning: The Refusal of Work 245

Notes 257

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