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Debt--personal, corporate, governmental--is so pervasive in contemporary economies, with its moralistic logic nearly unquestioned. Debt's necessityrenders it morally neutral, absolving it of the dehumanizing effect it brings in unbridled financialization.In Just DebtIlsup Ahn explores ethical implications of the practice of debt. Byplacing debt in the context of anthropology, philosophy, economics, and the ethical traditionsprovided by the Abrahamic religions,Ahn holds that debtwasoriginally a form of gift, a gift that was intendedas a means to serve humanity. Debt, as gift, had moral ends. Since the lateeighteenthcentury, however, debt has been reduced to an amoral economic tool, one separated from its social and political context. Ahn recovers an ethics of debt and its moral economy by rediscovering debt's forgotten aspect--thatall debts entail unique human stories.Ahn argues that it is only in and by these stories that the justice of debt can be determined. In orderfor debtto be justly established, its story should be free from elements of exploitation, abuse, and manipulation and should conform to the principles of serviceability, payability, and shareability.Although thecontemporaryglobal economydisconnects debt from its context, Ahn argues that debt must be firmly grounded in the world of moral values, social solidarity, and political resolution.By re-embedding debt within its moral world, Just Debtoffers a holistic ethics of debt for a neoliberal age.
Ilsup Ahn is Carl I. Lindberg Professor of Philosophy at North Park University. He is the author of Position and Responsibility (2009) and Religious Ethics and Migration: Doing Justice to Undocumented Workers (2013). He is also a coeditor of Asian American Christian Ethics: Voices, Issues, and Methods (2015). He received his PhD in Social and Religious Ethics from the University of Chicago.