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TwoThe Machine of Political Theology and the Place of Thought$
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Roberto Esposito

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823267613

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823267613.001.0001

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Nexum (Economic Theology I)

(p.136) Passage

Roberto Esposito

, Zakiya Hanafi
Fordham University Press

This chapter analyzes the figure of the ‘nexum’ in ancient Roman law. This was an insolvent debtor who was forced to place himself physically in the hands of his creditor until the debt was paid back. Although this practice was abolished in the later period of Roman law, for a long time it continued to mark the condition of debtors in the medieval and modern worlds. Still today, when the current economic crisis has brought the question of debt back into the forefront of our lives, the institution of the ‘nexum’ seems to be reappearing, although in different forms. In these same times, debtor prisons that were shut down in the 1700s when private jails were replaced by public prisons have now been reopened. Only when the link between economic debt and domination of the debtor’s body has been severed may we say that we have escaped the economic theology by which we are all bound.

Keywords:   body, debt, economy, obligation, theology

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