Debt resistance: Beyond or within capitalism?

pages: 137-157

  • Tamara Caraus Center for Advanced Studies, Southeast Europe, University of Rijeka


The empirical cases of debt resistance show that the most coherent way of resisting debt consists mainly in debt cancelation or a jubilee. But is debt cancellation, even on a mass scale, a sufficient form of debt resistance or resistance should aim at a deeper restructuring of the economic system that creates indebtedness? The aim of this paper is to examine if it is possible to formulate an argument for debt resistance to a financial economy that creates debt, instead of becoming indebted and then calling for debt forgiveness, jubilee and cancellation. In order to arrive at such an argument, this paper analyzes firstly the arguments on debt resistance formulated by David Graeber in Debt: the First 5,000 Years and by Maurizio Lazzarato in The Making of the Indebted Man: An Essay on the Neoliberal Condition, pointing to some common contradictions and shortcomings of Graeber’s and Lazzarato’s arguments which make debt foundational and inhibit the debt resistance instead of radicalizing it. The paper argues that an emphasis on the contingency and contestability of debt enhances resistance to debt and resistance to the neoliberal system as such. Keywords: resistance, debt, neoliberalism, contingency, contestability


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