05 January 2010

Book: Credit, crisis, and redemption (in German)

Samuel Weber (Northwestern University) has had a small booklet published in Germany titled "Geld ist Zeit: Gedanken zu Kredit und Krise" (Diaphanes Verlag, September 2009):


According to the publisher's website, this is a translation from English, but the original text seems not yet to have been published. Weber appears to have spoken on the topic in English ("Money is Time: Is the 'Credit Crisis' A Crisis of 'Redemption'?") at the University of Stockholm (December 2008), the University of Nottingham (October 2009), and the Catholic University of Portugal (November 2009), though.

From the publisher's description (my rough translation): Along with the financial crisis and the crisis of the banking industry, "[w]e are currently experiencing a veritable crisis of faith, which shakes the value system of the western world in its foundations. Samuel Weber's essay is guided by the question what logic is at the basis of an economy that has reached such extensive, quasi-theological dimensions".

Benjamin Franklin said "time is money", but also "credit is money". "The logic of capitalism is built [...] on credit: the belief of investors and consumers in the amortization of debt through return on investment ('Rendite'). 'Return on investment' is 'the capitalist kind of profit as redemption: repayment, amortization and salvation ('Rückzahlung, Tilgung und Erlösung').

"Weber's lucid, fierce analysis of the 'crisis' reveals that in a society in which the credere has taken the place of the Lutheran sola fide, capitalism has become the religion of a cult that is (with Walter Benjamin) 'not atoning, but indebting'." (my italics)

A (largely unfavourable) review in today's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung indicates that Weber bases his essay as much on Carl Schmitt's political theology – an analogy between religious and secular terminology – as on Benjamin.

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