Stimilli, Elettra

(Dipartimento di Filosofia, Università degli Studi di Salerno)

Practices of Life and the Religious Character of Capitalism

After production and consumption, the central figure that emerges today is debt. Beyond the condition of the man as entrepreneur of himself, on which Michel Foucault focused his attention in the courses on liberal biopolitics, the prototype of contemporary experience is the man in debt. The complexity of the phenomenon requires not only a purely technical approach – in the sense of an economic policy, but a different analysis to the economic problems, which calls into question the relationship between religion and politics in the Western world through an investigation on religious roots of the economy.

The focus of this paper is not the residual role of religion in secularized societies, but the religious and fideistic character of capitalism in all practices of life. From this perspective, it is interesting to analize how the debt has increasingly been understood as “guilt” in recent years.

In this direction the debt problem requires also a reflection on the relationship between economic power and human life, and so calls into question a comparison with the reflection on the “biopolitics” which, starting from the studies of Foucault, opened a research field on problems of present era. In this field the Italian philosophers have participated with important contributions that had a significant international impact. This paper will attempt a comparison with this debate, starting from the issue of debt.

I have dealt with this issue in a recent work (E. Stimilli, Il debito del vivente. Ascesi e capitalismo, Quodlibet, Macerata 2011). In this paper I would like to explore this problem in the light of the new researches published on this topic (D. Graeber, Debt. The first 5.000 years, Melvillehouse, New York 2011; and M. Lazzarato, La fabrique de l’homme indetté. Essai sur la condition néoliberale, Editions Amsterdam, Paris 2011).


Selected Publications: Il debito del vivente. Ascesi e capitalismo (2011); Der Preis des Messianismus: Briefe von Jacob Taubes an Gershom Scholem und andere Materialien (2006; ed.); Jacob Taubes. Sovranità e tempo messianico (2004).