Angela Mitropoulos’ Contract and Contagion is a wide-reaching and ambitious book that makes important critical interventions on the role of contracts and debt in neo-liberal society with reference to a politics of the household (oikonomics) as the nexus of race, class, gender and sexuality.*
According to Mitropoulos –
Contract is the hyphen situated between politics and economics, which is to say, the emergence of political economy from moral economy, and the points of articulation between state and market.
Citing the US dollar as a global currency backed up by global military power as an example, Mitropoulos states that debts are ‘guaranteed by violence, whether implied or deployed.’ This observation appears hyperbolic but America does have all the guns and money. Mitropoulos analyses the racialised and gendered dimensions of surplus labour arguing that the construction of slavery as an attribute of blackness and unpaid domestic labour as a property of femininity are forms of ‘naturally constituted debt.’
Mitropoulos is at her most engaging on the subject of infrastructure. Pointing towards the occupations of Tahrir Square, Wall Street, and Oakland Mitropoulos describes how movement and relation are changed by the improvised nature of ‘infra-political’ interventions such as building toilets in homeless encampments, delivering healthcare to undocumented migrants and creating phone apps for evading police kettling. Here, according to Mitropoulos, activism creates new infrastructures for survival, ‘generating nomadic inventiveness rather than a royal expertise.’ – neat!
I’ll leave you with Mitropoulos’ words on why you should give a damn about oikonomics –
A politics of the household turns on that most materialist of propositions: we are how we live. **
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*What follows is less of a critique and more of a summary post because… Mitropoulos rocks and you should go read her stuff! Lots of it is online so no excuses.
**Think about it – then go do your fair share of the washing up.