Sovereign Debt (Economic Theology II)
Revisiting what was discussed in the section on the ‘nexum,’ this chapter analyzes the intersection between political theology and economic theology. The expression “sovereign debt” refers to national debt that virtually nullifies the effective sovereign power of states, subjecting them to supranational economic obligations imposed by the anonymous powers of global finance. The advent of this economic theology, which subordinates politics to the demands of capitalism, was diagnosed in a fragment by Walter Benjamin on capitalism as religion, and even before that in Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals. In both these texts, the economic notion of debt is traced back to the Christian notion of guilt, to the point that in German the word ‘Schuld’ means both ‘guilt’ and ‘debt.’ The chapter ends by examining the Hebrew festival of the Jubilee, when all debts are cancelled and all debt slaves are freed.
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