Our ninth Critical Conversation focuses on credit, debt, and theology. Our central interlocutors will be Philip Goodchild and Devin Singh, though New Polis contributors such as Carl Raschke and Joshua Ramey have explored similar topics.
While the ancient world offered various forms of large-scales debt forgiveness, contemporary global capitalism grew from specifically eurochristian aspirations to empire that produced colonialism. It is not that empires, indebtedness, and slavery did not exist before. As Philip Goodchild explores in Credit and Faith, “the Financial Revolution in England was able to conceal the credit economy which was its foundation and foster the pursuit of self-interest as the apparent means to the common good” (9). Yet this concealment allowed “the modern world to imagine the economy in independence of theology,” creating a false divide between secular and religious that hides a theological structure.
Goodchild argues, “When economic life is misrecognised as ‘free market capitalism’ rather than as a distinctive ordering of the creative power of investing value (based on credit and debt), there is a divorce between thinking and being” (10). While recognizing that there are many articulations of Christianity today, Goodchild emphasizes the concept of ascesis in its ability to transform mindsets (8).
Devin Singh’s Divine Currency tracks genealogies of economic thought from the ancient world, giving lie to common assumptions that money is profane material, separate from spiritual substance.