Debt Abolition

Debt Collective, Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay

Discussion Questions (Foreward, Intro, Ch.1):

  • How do loans and debt tie into American life, culture, and aspirations? 
  • How does debt control our lives? Can you give some examples?
  • How has the current context of COVID made debt cancellation an even more important demand?
  • Why do the authors argue for debt abolition rather than simply debt cancellation? What would it take to achieve debt abolition? 
    • Passage to consider: “Abolition is a strategy and a vision for a world with social housing, health care, education, art, and meaningful work, and a life free from state violence and material want. Debt abolition works similarly. It is a vision for a world without exploitative debt contracts, and with socially financed health care, education, housing, and more. Like prison abolition, debt abolition is a strategy and a vision for a world without—and a world with.”
  • What distinguishes debtor organizing from labor organizing? How are they alike and how are they different?
    • Passages to consider:
      • “Where labor unions focus on sites of production, debtors’ unions focus on circulation, or how money and capital flow and to whom” 
      • “Unlike workers, debtors don’t share a factory floor or office but are connected nevertheless, bound by the same creditors and an economic system that forces them into debt for basic needs. Coordinated campaigns of debt renegotiation and refusal can include people who live on opposite sides of the country, opposite ends of the city, or, in some cases, on the other side of the world.” 

Discussion Questions (Ch. 2 & 3):

  • What are the causes of financialization and how does it relate to indebtedness?
    • What are the structural causes of indebtedness?
  • How is financialization historically rooted in racism and colonialism?
  • How does financialization impact our access to basic human rights? (e.g. housing, water) 
  • How has financialization reinforced white supremacy? (Think both about the situation in the United States as well as globally.)
  • What are the causes and consequences of municipal debt? 
    • Think about some of the examples from the reading: e.g., Detroit, Flint 
    • What is the relationship between municipal debt and systems of mass incarceration?
  • What are the causes and consequences of state/sovereign debt?
    • Think about some of the examples from the reading: e.g., Bolivia, Ecuador, Greece, Puerto Rico
    • What is the relationship between sovereign debt and systems of neo-colonialism?
  • Why is collective action important in an era of financialization? What forms might this collective action take?