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Spaces of debt resistance and the contemporary politics of financialised capitalism

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Johnna Montgomerie, Daniela Tepe-Belfrage

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-317
Number of pages9
Early online date19 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


King's Authors


This article is about debt and power within the contemporary political economy of austerity. It investigates how the power relations of debt manifest through scale: the body, the household, the community, the nation state, and the global financial system. This is accomplished by integrating the concepts of Debt Space (Harker, 2017) and social reproduction (Steans and Tepe, 2010) to analyse the empirical material collected from two parallel projects into the practices of debt auditing at the national and household level. In doing so we explore key sites of intersubjective meaning making, where moral norms of indebtedness connect to action and agency. From the analysis of the evidence this article makes two interrelated interventions. Firstly, we contend that debt is a transformative force. We observe the effects of debt’s presence as it changes and reconfigures the social space around it. Secondly, bringing together the national and household analysis makes visible how debt audits are a progenitor of resistance. Debt audits invite people to 'care' about their debt (Montgomerie and Tepe-Belfrage, 2016) and consider debt to be a force causing harm in their households, communities and/or the nation state. With this recognition comes a call to seek freedom from debt and the harm that it is causing. A desire for freedom breeds action against the claims that debt makes. These actions include paying it down, diverting expenditures, defaulting, repudiating, cancelling, or paying it off altogether. Each of these are strategies of resistance to the moral authority of debt simultaneously delegitimizing public and private logics of austerity.

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