The Making of the Indebted man by Maurizio Lazzarato

I recently bought the Book: The Making of the Indebted man by Maurizio Lazzarato – an Italian born Paris based sociologist and philosopher, and in light of the Nobel Prize for the European Union I thought I would type out a brief excerpt but first I want to say a word or two about semiotics.


Semiotics  is the study of signs and sign processes (semiosis), indication, designation, likeness, analogy, metaphor, symbolism, signification, and communication.  Semiotics is often divided into three branches:

  1. Semantics: Relation between signs and the things to which they refer; their denotata, or meaning
  2. Syntactics: Relations among signs in formal structures
  3. Pragmatics: Relation between signs and the effects they have on the people who use them

Here Lazzarato look at the debt and the debt creditor relationship. He seem it a sign or symbol of something else. What that is I suppose you will see soon enough.

The debtor creditor relationship intensifies mechanisms of exploitation and domination at every level of society, for within it no distinction exists between workers and the unemployed, consumers and producers, working and non-working populations, retirees and welfare recipients. Everyone is a “debtor” accountable and guilty before capital. Capital has become the Great Creditor. The Universal Creditor. AS the current “crisis leaves no room to doubt, property remains one of the major political stakes of neo-liberalism, since the creditor-debtor relationship is a product of power relations between the owners (of capital) and non-owners (of capital).

Through public debt entire societies become indebted. Instead of preventing “inequalities,” the latter exacerbates them. It is high time we call these inequalities, simply, “class differences”

The “new economy”, the information and knowledge societies, have all been absorbed by the debt economy. In those democracies that triumphed over communism, just a handful of people (certain functionaries at the IMF, the European Central bank, the EU, and a few politicians) now decide for everyone according to the interests of a minority. The debt economy has deprived the immense majority of Europeans of political power, which had already been diminished through the concession of a representative democracy. It has deprived them of a growing share of the wealth that past struggles had wrested from capitalist accumulation. And above all, it has deprived them of the future, that is, of time as decision-making, choice and possibility.

The series of financial crises has violently revealed a subjective figure that, while already present, now occupies the entirety of public space: the “indebted man.” The subjective achievements liberalism has promised (“everyone a shareholder, everyone an owner, everyone an entrepreneur”) have plunged us into the existential condition of the indebted man at once responsible and guilty for his particular fate.

….. Capitalism has abandoned the epic narratives it had constructed around the “conceptual types” of the entrepreneur, the creative visionary, and the independent worker, “proud of being his own boss.” By pursuing their personal interests alone, these types supposedly work for the good of all. The dedication, subjective motivation and the work on the self preached by the management since the 1980’s have become an injunction to take upon oneself the costs and risks if the economic and financial disaster. The population must take charge of everything business and the Welfare State “externalize” onto society, debt, first of all.

According to business leaders, the media, politicians, and experts,…[…]… the true causes of the repeated crises lie in the excessive demands of the governed who want nothing more than to laze about, and in the corruption of the elites who, in reality, have always had a hand in the international division of labor and power.

The neoliberal power bloc cannot and does not want to “regulate” the “excesses” of finance because its political program continues to be based on the choices and decisions that brought us the latest crises. Instead with its threat of sovereign debt defaults, it seeks to reduce wage to a minimum, cut social services so that the Welfare State is made to serve its new “beneficiaries – business and the rich – and privatize everything.


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