Jubilee and Debt Abolition: An Introduction

Hands raised in celebration with money falling from the sky and balloons.

Credit: Olivia Wise (oliviawisestudio.com).

Medical debt. Student debt. Mortgage debt. Payday loans.

Debt levels have soared in recent decades, constraining our daily choices and the horizons of possibility in our lives. One in three Americans is currently being pursued by a debt collector, and the vast majority of debts result from an inability to pay for basic needs associated with health care, education, and housing.

What would it feel like to live in a world not defined by this crushing experience of debt? Dare we imagine such a world?

The current economic system depends on our mass indebtedness, so we face intense pressure to see our debts as inevitable and unchangeable. In situations like this, engaging with prophetic spiritual visions can ignite our activist imaginaries, yielding thought experiments that reveal the tension between the way the world is and the way our world should be.

In this special issue, activists, theologians, economists, and philosophers come together to explore what it would mean to take seriously the Torah’s call for the cancellation of all debts and a yearlong halt to economic production every seven years (through the observance of a Sabbatical Year) and the equal redistribution of property every fifty years (through the observance of a Jubilee Year). Some offer new ethical vocabularies to help us expose and abolish unjust structures of debt. Others report on exciting efforts already underway to reframe debt as a collective problem to be solved through mass mobilization and social transformation. Join us in this joyful and daring dream of Jubilee in the section that follows!

In addition, don’t miss the powerful web-only articles on this topic at tikkun.org/jubilee.

(To return to the Winter 2015 Table of Contents, click here.)

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