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Richard H. Robbins

Interrelationships among money, debt, and economic growth create a financial system that provides a steady stream of income to banks and private investors— the proverbial 1 percent. However, because economists obscure these interrelationships, threats to the maintenance of the monetary streams of the elite are underreported. Consequently, increasing shares of national incomes must be appropriated to maintain those streams. This article reexamines the nature of and relationships among money, debt, and economic growth to understand austerity programs and why rates of economic growth must decline and how governments and elites adjust to this reality. It then suggests alternative ways of addressing the creation of money and the problems arising from the division of society into net debtors and net creditors.

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Debt, Peonage and Dependency in the kafalah System

Hadrami Migratory Experience in Kuwait

Abdullah M. Alajmi

Studies of immigrants in Kuwait focus on structural aspects overlooking sociohistorical elements and meso-level relationships that develop through migration. This ethnography shows that the immigrant's perspective and the history of the relationship between the receiving society and the immigrant community are both essential for establishing broader and thicker analyses of reality. It argues that because Hadramis and Kuwaiti sponsors were historically linked in personal exchanges originating in the Kuwaiti domestic realm, the meaning and practices of sponsorship comprise a unique migratory and work experience. Normally the immigrant–sponsor relationship is conveyed in terms of pseudokinship, yet references to moral debts and dependency reveal forms of exploitation and dominance. Hadrami–Kuwaiti relationships do not produce significant economic outcomes for the sponsor. Rather, Hadramis are symbolically valued within local hierarchies. This symbolic value has sustained a solid Hadrami presence in Kuwait and secured an income for retiring immigrants at home.

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Grave Matters and the Good Life

On a Finite Economy in Bosnia

Larisa Jasarevic

This article outlines how the good life and a decent death in contemporary Bosnia are underwritten and undermined by informal forms of debt. Such debts finance pursuit of a pleasurable life in a post-conflict, post-socialist economy but inspire daily anxieties, not least about dying indebted. The article runs through household budgeting, everyday splurges, bodily discomforts, ordinary death and a funeral marketplace, suggesting a 'finite economy' of vernacular practice incited and limited by an habitual fixation on existential finitude.

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"Your debts are our problem"

The politicization of debt in Azerbaijan

Tristam Barrett

Unlike in other countries with debt-saddled populations, the issue of consumer debt has been weakly politicized in Azerbaijan. There have been no social movements of the kind that occurred around the financial crises in the United States, the European periphery, or even in Ukraine’s post-revolution attempt at a “financial Maidan.” The lack of a public politics of debt left banks to act as predators, using a weak court system to intimidate people and obtain repayment of debts. Yet the constraints to the public sphere within which a contentious politics might unfold does not mean no such politicization exists. Using the example of Antikollektor, a successful anti-debt-collection agency in Baku, this article demonstrates the usefulness of building an understanding of civil society outside of the reductivist frames that shape recent debates over the authoritarian backlash against foreign-funded organized civil society in the former Eastern Bloc.

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The Debts of War

Bifurcated Veterans' Mobilization and Political Order in Post-settlement El Salvador

Ralph Sprenkels

This article examines mobilization by civil war veterans of the insurgency and the government army. These veterans became a major political force in postwar El Salvador. I demonstrate that the ascendency of the war veterans hinged on the combination of two types of mobilization: “internal” mobilization for partisan leverage, and public mobilization to place claims on the state. By this bifurcated mobilization, veterans from both sides of the war pursued clientelist benefits and postwar political influence. Salvadoran veterans’ struggles for recognition revolve around attempts to transform what the veterans perceive as the “debts of war” into postwar political order. The case of El Salvador highlights the versatility and resilience of veterans’ struggles in post- settlement contexts in which contention shifted from military confrontation to electoral competition.

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Empowering or impoverishing through credit

Small-scale producers and the Plan Chontalpa in Tabasco, Mexico

Gisela Lanzas and Matthew Whittle

This article examines the evolution of the credit market for small-scale sugarcane producers in the Plan Chontalpa development program in Tabasco, Mexico. The plan promoted neoliberal policies that transformed the existing credit market available to small-scale producers. The availability of credit was supposed to lead to increased efficiency. However, making credit available to low-income farmers can result in unintended outcomes. We found that many households had high discount rates and used the credit to supplement their household income. Thus, farmers are getting caught in a cycle of debt that often culminates in losing their land. We use a life history to consider the strategies the program has adopted to control credit as well as the counterstrategies the families have developed.

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Repaying the Debts of the Dead

Kinship, Microfinance, and Mortuary Practice on the Paraguayan Frontier

Caroline E. Schuster

Microcredit loans—most famously systems of group-based borrowing—are a key tool in global economic development frameworks. Building outward from microcredit programs in Paraguay, I explore the discontinuous materialities of both kin- and debt-based obligations, especially at their intersection. I argue that borrowers feel the life span of debts most acutely when mortuary practices anchored in kinship ties are bound up with the task of taking on the financial obligations of the dead. This analysis shows how the bonds between kinship, death, and indebtedness go beyond analogy, for collective debt is not ‘like’ a kinship relationship. Instead, microcredit social collateral provides a means for people to deal with the broader issues affecting the life span of individuals, objects, and commitments, as well as the human stakes involved with obligation.

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The emergence of the global debt society

Governmentality and profit extraction through fabricated abundance and imposed scarcity in Peru and Spain

Ismael Vaccaro, Eric Hirsch and Irene Sabaté

As a result of the financialization of household and national economies, indebtedness has become a system of domination shaping the making of contemporary subjects. Th is sort of governmentality through debt is a multifaceted phenomenon affecting people’s economic and political behavior in both the North and the South. Disguised and legitimized by the moral obligation to repay debts, and by promises of upward social mobility (for the working classes in the North) and of development (for the population of the Global South), indebtedness disciplines households and neutralizes political agency under finance capitalism, as our ethnographic examples on the mortgage crisis in Spain and on microfinance in Peru reveal.

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Women and children together and apart

Finding the time for social reproduction theory

Jan Newberry and Rachel Rosen

In what ways, and to what effects, are proliferating temporalities of appropriation in financialized capitalism transforming or transformed by those of social reproductive labor? More specifically, how are woman-child relations affected when social reproduction becomes a site of immediate, not just indirect, capital accumulation through relations of debt? To answer these questions, we take up species-being as the labor relation that anchors socially necessary labor and links women and children by attending to three temporal modalities of accumulation via social reproductive labor: scholarization, (re)familization, and debt servicing. We argue that differentiated tempos in the appropriation of surplus value, operating to “fix” contradictions between capital’s short- and long-term interests, are critical sources of tension between women and children in the meeting of needs. Producing and mapping divergent rhythms of appropriation on to different groups may both link diverse women and children, and put their interests at odds.

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Brigitte Young and Willi Semmler

Only a decade ago, slow growth and high unemployment plagued Germany, but the "sick man of Europe" has now moved to outperform the Eurozone average growth since the second quarter of 2010. This confirms Germany's recovery and its status as the growth engine of the continent. This surely is a success story. While Germany (also Austria and the Netherlands) is prospering, the peripheral countries in the Eurozone are confronted with a severe sovereign debt crisis. Starting in Greece, it soon spread to countries such as Ireland, Portugal, and Spain. In the course of the debate, Germany was blamed for the imbalances in Europe. In short, German export performance and the sustained pressure for moderate wage increases have provided German exporters with the competitive advantage to dominate trade and capital flows within the Eurozone. Thus, Germany is seen as the main beneficiary of the EURO. This argument, however, is vehemently disputed within Germany. Many economists and political leaders reject this argument and point to the flagrant lack of fiscal discipline in many of the peripheral countries. Some prominent economists, such as Hans-Werner Sinn, even disputes that Germany was the main beneficiary of the Eurozone. The paper analyzes the two sides of the controversy, and asks whether we are witnessing a more inwardlooking and Euroskeptic Germany. These issues will be analyzed by first focusing on the role of Germany in resolving the sovereign debt crisis in Greece, and the European Union negotiations for a permanent rescue mechanism. We conclude by discussing some possible explanations for Germany's more assertive and more Euroskeptic position during these negotiations.