Whoever has not voluntarily contracted debt does inherit it from the State.

In many ancient and modern cultures, debt, like guilt, implies a bond, an obligation. At the origin of this connection, we identify a legal relationship, such as that which, in religion, unites man with God.

Through it, a relationship of dependence of the living beings with respect to the sovereign powers and the obligation to amortize, in the course of life, the vital energy of which they have been made depositories is expressed.

The oldest form of amortization to pay the divine debt of life is sacrifice. The power associated with the sacrificial cult focuses on the victim, in which the germs of disagreement polarize in common life, diverting its course.

As a bond, debt is the expression of a social nexus, the interruption of which implies guilt for its non-observance. This nexus also shows itself essentially as a powerful device of power.

It is clear, in effect, that the expression “being in debt” does not simply mean having “debts”. With it, something is expressed that, exactly, cannot be possessed, and that rather owns us and what we are subject to: literally, on this horizon, “being in debt” indicates a “life debt” that cannot be overcome because it surpasses us.

Debt, more precisely speaking, is a state that is continually produced and fed, because it is the only thing in which it is possible to invest, as the recent economic re-launch policies demonstrate.

Today, more than ever, “being in debt” seems to coincide with the condition in which it is not only possible to enter at a given moment because it is identified with the State in which one was born, regardless of the situation of poverty or wealth.

Even those who have never voluntarily incurred debt, are born in debt in States that transmit their own debt to all who are part of them, even before coming into the world.

Of course, as geographic, political, and social contexts change, and depending on whether there are more or fewer state protections, the role and entity of the debt also change. A migrant who manages to reach the Italian shores alive, for example, is obliged to pay for years the debt contracted with whoever has transported him.

American students, long before starting work, are in debt to the banks, which have anticipated the payment of their university fees, and they already know that for several years they will have to use part of their eventual earnings to pay off their debt.

Today more than ever, therefore, it seems that we have experience of the fact that debt arrives before life itself, insofar as it not only precedes it but determines it, exposing it even to the risk of death, as shown by the high rate of debt suicides for debts registered in the last years.

But “debt” has been explicitly connected to “guilt”, especially at a time when the governments have been directly involved in the global economic collapse.

In this way, an infinite debt is reproduced, which materially comes from obsessive forms of consumption destined to compensate for the conviction of not being fit for what is required of us.

The debt issue arose as a specific problem in some European countries, which have been considered guilty of mismanagement by the State that can be paid through “sacrifices”.

Recent policies of economic re-launch and recovery, critical of the system promoting the austerity regime, have explicitly opposed the guilty paradigm of rigor, proposing themselves as alternatives.

But more than a real alternative, the emerging line of economic development has become, on the horizon of this work, the symptom of an opacity not yet fully investigated and at the heart of a broader problem that requires new analysis.

In short, the current debt arrangement actually seems to be an even more complex mechanism than the legal one, to which it belongs in many respects.

Today, the debt is not, or is not only, a condition that must be amended – as the authoritarian mandate of the sacrifices imposed by austerity policies would seem to indicate – nor simply the last and empty expression of the legal bond that, by implying the Life in the sphere of law can never be fully assumed.

Debt, more precisely speaking, is a state that is continually produced and fed, because it is the only thing in which it is possible to invest, as the recent economic re-launch policies demonstrate.

In the market economy, which has become a political institution since the neoliberal turn, a radical change is underway in the field of normative production.

The function of guilt connected to the economy of debt changes as the conditions that produced it change and the categories that operate on the basis of this change are no longer only those of a legal nature, but rather those linked to the economic sphere of debt.

The guilt, here, does not turn out to be only the expression of a link that prejudges by the mere fact of existing. It is the condition that occurs at the time when, with neoliberal policies, the ways of giving value to life fully correspond to the same valorization of capital, thus making it possible for each of us to become a “human capital ”.

Individual capacities, in themselves potentially open, are thus transformed by the frustration of never feeling up to the task.

For this reason, there is a constant self-criticism origin of a feeling of guilt, whose fundamental characteristic is not merely to be in relation to a legal bond, but rather to be born from an economic evaluation modality, which immediately translates into investment possibilities in what is a lack.

In this way, an infinite debt is reproduced, which materially comes from obsessive forms of consumption destined to compensate for the conviction of not being fit for what is required of us.

To give possibilities again to what tends to be imposed at the moment only as a lack is precisely what we must try to do to change the conditions of what seems to be a network with no possibility of exit.

If it is true that every society is capable of producing the type of man it needs, I think that to open a step in this direction, it may be useful to study the mechanisms of the “anthropogenic machine” that neoliberal societies are equipped with; a machine in many respects different from the legal one, the improvement of which had interested many ancient and modern societies, but it is not for that reason easier to reactivate in a different way than the senseless career undertaken until today.

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