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CFP: Special Issue of Studies in Social and Political Thought

February 24, 2014




Submission Deadline: 5th May 2014

The global economic crisis has brought the question of debt sharply into focus. From the indebtedness of the individual by means of easy credit, to the universalisation of private debt in financial instruments and the financial stranglehold of whole countries by sovereign debt. Debt and the obligation that comes with it dominate the structure of contemporary society and economy. Austerity programmes are implemented by governments around the world, often with disastrous social consequences and without popular support. The narratives of “living within one’s means” and “giving back what is owed” are dominant among the international organisations and power centres that promote these austere solutions. Even democratic legitimation is superseded by the obligation of paying one’s debts, to the extent that technocratic governments replace democratically elected ones for fulfilling that purpose. A “hard but fair” solution is advanced by many in government and elsewhere, where debt reduction seems to be given an almost moral quality, and as such connected to a moral obligation and duty.

On the other hand, the concepts of debt and obligation are the cornerstones of many ethical theories and philosophies, from Kant’s categorical imperative and deontological ethics in general to Nietzsche’s genealogical critique of morality. Moreover, a great part of political philosophy and theory is preoccupied with the question of the obligation to the state and what gives it legitimacy. But how are these ethical and political issues put into practice? Depending on one’s point of view there can be either a moral obligation that supports the state’s legitimacy, or one that directly opposes it. In particular, should one follow the moral narrative of paying one’s debts under any circumstances or are there instances where one has an obligation to resist debts placed upon them? Is there such a thing as a just debt? These questions, it could be claimed, have not been given enough critical attention, and theoretical discourse has passed them by.

We are, therefore, seeking articles that engage theoretically with the concepts of debt and obligation, and explore their relationship with the social, economic, or political spheres. In keeping with the interdisciplinary ethos of SSPT we will accept papers from all related disciplines including politics, sociology, history, political economy, and philosophy.

Possible theoretical frameworks and topics include, but are not limited to:

Moral Obligation / Political Obligation / Debt from an Economic, Sociological, Historical or Philosophical Perspective / Crisis & Debt / Deontological Ethics / Kantian Ethics and Political Theory / Hegel / Contract Theory / Recognition & Self-Recognition / Nietzsche, Morality, Guilt and “Bad Conscience” / Marxism & Marxisms / Theories of Biopolitics / Instrumental Reason / Critical Theory / Post-Colonialism / Discourse and Democratic Theory / Structuralism and Post-Structuralism / Soft and Hard Power / Hegemony / World-Systems / Sovereignty / Legality and Legitimacy /

Article Submissions:

Articles should be 5,000-7,000 words. The deadline for submissions is 5th May 2014.

Please send your articles to sspt[AT]sussex[DOT]ac[DOT]uk

For more information and for submission guidelines visit:

All accepted articles will feature in a special issue of SSPT on ‘Debt and Obligation’ to be published Summer 2014

About SSPT:

Studies in Social and Political Thought is a journal produced by postgraduate students, many of whom are based at the University of Sussex. The journal seeks to foster and promote interdisciplinarity in social and political thought, in addition to providing a publishing platform to junior academics.

The journal is presently produced and supported by the Centre for Social and Political Thought at the University of Sussex. Our international advisory board includes Robert Pippin, Axel Honneth, Seyla Benhabib, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Fredric Jameson, Homi Bhabha, Alessandro Ferrara, William Outhwaite, Simon Jarvis, Shadia Drur, Martin Jay, Adriana Cavarero, James Gordon Finlayson, Robert Goodin, and Andrew Chitty.

For all other info regarding the journal, including our annual Summer conference, as well as access to free PDF copies of the journal, visit:

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