Det Biopolitiske Lån: Individets realisator, samfundsøkonomiens motor?

Simon Bergmann Lassen

Student thesis: Master thesis


In public debate the story of the financial crisis has largely been a story of a busted housing bubble, greedy financiers and a deregulated financial system. This has left little room for the more fundamental questions, such as why were all these money borrowed and what was the political or societal interest in huge individual indebtness. Questions that in my view are key if we want to understand the deeper lying tendencies and dynamics that led to the crisis. In this thesis I address exactly these questions. But whereas a traditional economical perspective understand the loan as a rational answer to an economic need, I propose an alternative account. Drawing on Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben and Paulo Virno I provide a biopolitical analysis of the loan and the role it plays in the relation between society and the individual. This perspective, I argue, provides us with insights into both the motives and dynamics of why individuals take on debt and how individual debt plays an important political and societal role in modern liberal societies. The thesis is divided into two main parts. In the first part I develop my theoretical perspective. More specifically I draw on Foucaults thoughts on the liberal governing of the population and his account of the constitution of the self, Agambens notion of the excluded individual (homo sacer) and Virnos concept of the general intellect. In the second part I start with an analysis of the history of the Danish ”realkredit-loan”, showing how it went from being a practical solution to a specific problem into a broader societal way of stimulating consumer life. Then I apply my theoretical framework on existing research – focus group interviews – showing the way the loan works as a biopolitical technology that helps constitute the moral self in a balance between selfdiscipline and desire. Finally I turn to the ways in which danish banks have acted as biopolitical institutions promoting loans through campaigns that speak to the values and aspirations of individual self-realization. The thesis concludes that – viewed through a biopolitical lense - the loan can be understood as a technology of government that both stimulates and secures the self-fulfillment of the individual and creates regularity in the behaviour of the population to the ”benefit” of society in general and the economy more specifically.

EducationsMSc in Philosophy, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2010
Number of pages95