Do you know anyone who is not a debtor, at least in some sense? The idea is practically unthinkable. To participate in modern life, one must take on debt: credit cards, housing loans, medical bills, education. Even cash is a form of debt, albeit normalized to the point that we no longer think of it as such. State of Debt and the Price of Architecture is a series that attempts to consider the particular situation of architecture student debt within a larger cultural and historical framework: to show just how strange (and untenable) the normal actually is.
In his book Debt: the First 5,000 Years, the anthropologist David Graeber formulates a history of debt, arguing that it actually preceded bartering and currency-based transactions. The current global political-economic system is a complex network of debt, largely in the form of deficit spending. Sometimes, like in the case of Madagascar, former colonies are still paying for infrastructure projects they never asked for. Other countries are still paying reparations for wars fought by men now long dead. The International Monetary Fund is a debt-collecting agency that enforces the debtor-status of Third World countries, often to devastating effects such as with Argentina at the turn of the last century or Greece in the last decade.