Debt, time, [and the new] wealth

Here is an extended quote from Franco Berardi’s The Soul at Work,

The postmodern domination of capitalism is founded on the refrain of wealth, understood as cumulative possession.  A specific idea of wealth took control of the collective mind which values accumulation and the consent of the postponing of pleasurable enjoyment.  But this idea of wealth (specific to the sad science of economics) transforms life into lack, need and dependence.  To this idea of wealth we need to oppose another idea: wealth as time – time to enjoy, to travel, learn and make love.

Economic submission, producing need and lack, makes our time dependent, transforming our life into a meaningless run towards nothing.  Indebtedness is the basis of this refrain.

In 2006, the book Generation Debt (subtitled: Why now is a terrible time to be young) was published in the United States.  The author, Anya Kamenetz considers a question that finally came to the forefront of our collective attention in 2007, but has been fundamental to capitalism for a long time: debt.

Anya Kamenttz’s analysis refers especially to young people taking out loans in order to study.  For them, debt functions like a symbolic chain whose effects are more powerful than the real metal chains formerly used in slavery.

This new model of subjugation goes through a cycle of capture, illusion, psychological submission, financial trap and finally pure and simple obligation to work.

. . .

Our young fellow signs the loan, goes to university and graduates: after that, his/her life belongs to the bank.  S/he will have to start work immediately after graduation, in order to pay back a never ending amount of money. . . . S/he will have to accept any condition of work, any exploitation, any humiliation, in order to pay the loan which follows her wherever s/he goes.

Debt is the creation of of obsessive refrains that are imposed on the collective mind.  Refrains impose psychological misery thanks to the ghost of wealth, destroying time in order to transform it into economic value.  The aesthetic therapy we need – an aesthetic therapy that will be the politics of the time to come – consists in the creation of dissipating refrains capable of giving light to another modality of wealth, understood as time for pleasure and enjoyment.

The crisis that began in the summer of 2007 has opened a new scene: the very idea of social relation as ‘debt’ is now crumbling apart.

The anti-capitalist movement of the future won’t be a movement of the poor, but of the wealthy.  The real wealthy of the future will be those who will succeed in creating forms of autonomous consumption, mental models of need reduction, habitat models for the sharing of indispensable resources.  This requires the creation of dissipative wealth refrains, or of frugal and ascetic wealth.

in the virtualized model of semiocapitalism, debt worked as a general frame of investment, but it also became a cage for desire, transforming desire into lack, need and dependency that is carried for life.

Finding a way out of such a dependency is a political task whose realization is not a task for politicians.  It’s a task for art, modulating and orienting desire, and mixing libidinal flows.  It is also a task for therapy, understood as a new focalization of attention, and a shifting of the investments of desiring energy.


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