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Maurizio Lazzarato: The Making of the Indebted Man. Essay on the neoliberal condition

Debt -- both public debt and private debt -- has become a major concern of economic and political leaders. In The Making of the Indebted Man, Maurizio Lazzarato shows that, far from being a threat to the capitalist economy, debt lies at the very core of the neoliberal project. Through a reading of Karl Marx's lesser-known youthful writings on John Mill, and a rereading of writings by Friedrich Nietzsche, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, and Michel Foucault, Lazzarato demonstrates that debt is above all a political construction, and that the creditor/debtor relation is the fundamental social relation of Western societies. Debt cannot be reduced to a simple economic mechanism, for it is also a technique of "public safety" through which individual and collective subjectivities are governed and controlled. Its aim is to minimize the uncertainty of the time and behavior of the governed. We are forever sinking further into debt to the State, to private insurance, and, on a more general level, to corporations. To insure that we honor our debts, we are at once encouraged and compelled to become the "entrepreneurs" of our lives, of our "human capital." In this way, our entire material, psychological, and affective horizon is upended and reconfigured.

How do we extricate ourselves from this impossible situation? How do we escape the neoliberal condition of the indebted man? Lazzarato argues that we will have to recognize that there is no simple technical, economic, or financial solution. We must instead radically challenge the fundamental social relation structuring capitalism: the system of debt.

Translated by: Suzana Koncut


Contents

Foreword

Understanding debt as the basis of social life

Why a debt economy and not a finance economy?

Manufacturing debt

A power relation specific to debt

The genealogy of debt and the debtor

Debt and subjectivity: Nietzsche’s contribution

The creditor-debtor relationship as the basis of social relations

The temporality of debt as possibility, choice, and decision

The economy as process of subjectivation

The two Marxes

Action and Confidence within the Logic of Debt

Deleuze and Guattari: a short history of debt

The ascendency of debt in neoliberalism

Foucault and the “birth” of neoliberalism

Debt’s reconfiguration of sovereign, disciplinary, and biopolitical power

Neoliberal governmentality and debt: hegemony or government?

Debt and the social world

Antiproduction and antidemocracy

Conclusion