Debt, à la Lettre: The Promise of Debt and the Duty of the Indebted
This paper demonstrates that the logic of debt is founded on an infinite task, amounting to a process of continual repayment with never an end in sight. This infinite task expresses as its inner contradiction: “borrow, spend, and be guilty.” Through the formula “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of…”, inscribed on every banknote in the UK, I show how the juridico-political apparatuses function to maintain the force of the utterance. Through Agamben’s archeology of the oath, I show how the ‘I promise’ functions as a performative speech act, that ultimately acts as a commandment, or an order-word. Therefore, the notion of debt can only be conceptualised as that which is constituted by the force of language, which is simultaneously reliant on a secondary threat of physical force in order to maintain the primary force of the utterance. The incorporeal transformation that results from this renders each of us perpetually indebted persons.
SubjectsAgamben, Debt, Promise, Oath, Speech Act, Deleuze, Order Word, Force of Language, Commandment
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