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.
The Utopia of Bankruptcy
raphaëlle guidée is an associate professor of comparative literature at the University of Poitiers (France) and a junior member of the Institut Universitaire de France (iuf). Her research interests include the writing of utopia, representations of disasters, and political imagination in literature, arts, and social sciences. Her book Mémoires de l’oubli (Classiques Garnier, 2017) focuses on narratives of mourning and debt toward those whose memory has been lost or erased. She has also coedited several interdisciplinary collections of articles about contemporary literature, including L’Apocalypse, une imagination politique (Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2018), Dire les inégalités (Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2016), and Utopie et catastrophe (Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2015).
Raphaëlle Guidée; The Utopia of Bankruptcy. differences 1 December 2020; 31 (3): 76–90. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-8744511
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