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The Ethics of Debt and Finance

16th February 2020 · 7:00pm - 9:00pm

In person | Virtual event

 The Ethics of Debt and Finance

In this special event, philosopher Alexander Douglas (author of The Philosophy of Debt)) aims to clarify the concept of debt so we can find better answers to important moral and political questions.

Economists and philosophers tend to work with a relatively benign concept of debt: it is an instrument allowing a borrower to effectively spend her own future income by borrowing the savings of a lender and (often) paying an interest charge for the temporary use of them.

The practice of lending at interest has regularly functioned to allow creditors to deliberately generate unpayable debts, with the intention of reducing debtors to permanent servitude. Naturally this involved collusion among creditors, so that early economists could reasonably have expected the practice to die out with modern capitalism. But, I argue, this does not seem to be what happened.

Rather, the modern financial system preserves the old feudal structure. It continues to facilitate the generation of unpayable loans, along with the major consequence: the stratification of society into a creditor caste and a debtor caste. Sweeping such practices under the benign-sounding concept of debt serves an agenda of political obfuscation that we should resist.

About the speaker:
Alexander Douglas is a lecturer in philosophy in the School of Philosophical, Anthropological, and Film Studies at the University of St. Andrews. His interests include the work of Baruch Spinoza as well as the philosophy of macroeconomics.

This event is in the Bertrand Russell Room on the ground floor (accessible, with induction loop audio). For accessibility info:

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