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States, Debt, and Power'Saints' and 'Sinners' in European History and Integration$
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Kenneth Dyson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198714071

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198714071.001.0001

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The Perils of Sleepwalking

(p.1) Prologue
States, Debt, and Power

Kenneth Dyson

Oxford University Press

This chapter introduces the three key arguments of the book. It examines the shadowy world of debt, its technicality, and opacity. The world of debt is revealed as highly susceptible to practices of gimmickry, concealment, and mendacity and as a source of serious threats to political legitimacy. The chapter examines the roots of the pervasive illusion, hubris, and complacency in thinking about debt. It also draws out the complex moral challenges that debt management poses, in particular the problematic nature of a moralizing discourse of ‘saints’ and ‘sinners’ and the narrowing of intellectual horizons that has been associated with the colonization of debate by formal macroeconomics. Finally, the chapter introduces key historical patterns in creditor-debtor state relations, including the formalization of creditor-debtor state relations since the twentieth century, persisting collective-action problems, and the transience of power.

Keywords:   patterns, opacity, technicality, gimmickry, illusion, hubris, complacency, saints, sinners, macroeconomics

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