Northwestern Events Calendar


Global Theory Workshop Presents Robert Sparling

When: Monday, April 22, 2019
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM CT

Where: Scott Hall, 201, 601 University Place, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: John Mocek   (847) 491-5364

Group: Department of Political Science

Category: Academic


Debt, Corruption and State Identity in Eighteenth-Century Political Thought

The subject of national debt raises serious questions concerning state identity. Should a state that has radically altered its government and/or constitution be responsible for decisions taken by the previous state? What of cases in which there are serious doubts about the legitimacy of the previous regime? Much hangs on how we characterize the state as a continuous agent. This paper considers this problem by exploring debates over national debt, state integrity and corruption in the eighteenth century, the era in which the key institutions of the modern, perpetually indebted financial-bureaucratic state were in their infancy. A great deal of eighteenth-century writing on the evils of public debt treated it as corrupting; some writers even advocated voluntary default as a manner not merely of saving national finances, but also of laying low the insidious ‘moneyed interests’ usurping political power. But if massive public debt was attacked by some as the soul of corruption, it was seen by others as something that had been made possible by—and was even a guarantor of—integrity. These controversies reveal a clash of visions of what constitutes state integrity. This same clash is very much alive in contemporary debates about national debts.


Robert Sparling

Asst. Professor, School of Politics

University of Ottawa


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