debt, or …

I’ve been pondering the sidebar conversation regarding  Lazzarato’s economistic focus of debt, and the discussion of other forms of debt worth negotiating , mentioned at different points by Peter, Evan and Mark… Having not read Butler, but thinking about the sentiment, I wonder if there are more suitable words that might embrace the positive indebtedness we have (to parents, for example), as opposed to an asymmetrical relation that engenders some form of ‘beholden’-ness?

Gratitude is one word that comes to mind.There are many others, I’m sure….  But I wonder if word choice obviates the tension, or if it relational?


2 thoughts on “debt, or …

  1. The word Butler used most often in Precarious Life was “vulnerable”, with “grievable” being close second. The task is to recognize our mutual vulnerability, which would then make all (lost) lives equally mournable or grievable. But those relationships aren’t exactly the indebted ones we’re trying to describe in terms of, as you suggest, “gratitude” or simply “thanks.”
    In Tronto’s gloss on care ethics we read over the summer, something kind of like gratitude comes up in the form of “care-receiving.” She “suggested four phases of care, each of which … has a concomitant virtue: caring about, attentiveness; taking care of, responsibility; care-giving, competence; and care-receiving, responsiveness. Ideally, care takes place in a holistic way” (p. 142). Clearly we only find ourselves in care-receiving circumstances (and capable of being virtuously responsive to that care) because we are all fundamentally vulnerable, generally and at multiple acute points throughout our lives (e.g., infancy, childhood, old age). So Butler’s observations are not completely irrelevant. But neither virtuous caring nor mutual recognition of vulnerability asks us to directly acknowledge *indebtedness* to each other. (In other words, you didn’t miss anything over the summer, Cheryl!)
    Perhaps some of our trouble is coming from the fact that too much attention to non-economic indebtedness (to our ancestors for these bodies and minds, to bygone philologists for these awesome languages, to Jonas Salk and Louis Pasteur) could lead us to an obsessively retrospective worldview, an obsession with roots — and possibly even a sense of obligation to protect and pass on our inheritance to future generations — that starts to look very much the “arborial” thinking that basically all of the other theorists we usually read are trying to get beyond! I think that’s probably why Lazzarato is into D&G — for him, indebtedness is politically, socially and psychologically toxic. Are we going to be able to reconcile sympathy for that position with some kind admittance of a positive sort of indebtedness along the lines of “gratitude”?

  2. Pingback: Can indebtedness be good? – multitude container

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