Private debt as an underestimated root cause of economic conflict

'The awkward struggle'

Drawing on a global database of 65 cases ranging from 1765 to 2020, the authors of 'The awkward struggle: A global overview of social conflicts against private debts', offer a preliminary glimpse at social conflicts against private debt.

Over the past two decades, indebtedness has been at the centre of the world's attention, but social conflicts against private debts have only rarely been studied. Drawing on a global database of 65 cases ranging from 1765 to 2020, the authors offer a preliminary glimpse at such mobilizations.

They find that anti-debt conflicts seem to have increased exponentially since the early 1980s and that they have involved different social classes with various political objectives, ranging from ‘populist’ to ‘revolutionary’, hence their multifaceted ‘awkward’ nature. Credit/debt relations are an underestimated root cause of many economic conflicts because of their foundational role in the (mis)workings of capitalism, their lasting consequences in terms of discipline and dispossession and their potential to change one's class location, downwards or upwards.

While the repression of anti-debt protests and the particular subjectivity associated with debt have often deterred mobilizations, the authors argue that the situation seems to be changing, as ever more people are discontented with the ‘debtfare state’ and the financialization of everyday life, including that of farming.

Read the article online - 'The awkward struggle: A global overview of social conflicts against private debts' Journal of Rural Studies, Vol. 86, August 2021.

Assistant professor

Dr Julien-François Gerber

Assistant professor

Dr Tsegaye Moreda

Researcher

Dr C. Sathyamala

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