Financially choked by economic and demographic decline, the city of Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy federal protection in 2013. In what sense can a situation of generalized insolvency be said to pave the way for the utopia of a debt-free world? Avoiding the easy symbolism that so often transforms Detroit and its inhabitants into an exciting thought experiment, Benjamin Markovits’s novel You Don’t Have to Live Like This (2015) offers a nuanced answer to this question, challenging the capitalist narrative of revival as much as the alternative promise of self-sufficiency. Far from being spared the anxiety of financial collapse, life without debt reveals worlds of precarious possibilities where mutual aid and autonomy go hand in hand with greater vulnerability.

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