Debt, Submission, and the Technical Definition of Drama

Two public answers to private question in which I employ a technical definition of drama.

Origin Debt

Contractual debts can only exist within some sort of civil law wherein commitments can be publicly and unambiguously evaluated.
In the absence of civil law institutions, dramatic strategies posturing around owing and being owed parasitize norms around debts, until only the dramatic versions remain.

A debt too large to be repaid, with no resolution process (e.g. bankruptcy or formal debt slavery), effectively reduces the debtor's creditworthiness within that system to nothing. If a hobo somehow owes a billion dollars, it makes no sense for me to draw up an enforceable contract to lend him $10, since the prior creditor has first claim on any money he might get to repay me. I might lend him the cash anyway informally if our informal credit system is decoupled from the one under which he owes a billion. It makes more sense to think of parents (in practice usually fathers) owning their children in some systems but not in others. If I want to lend to someone within a system where they're owned by someone else, I need to investigate their owner's credit as well.

I can also be said to "owe" my parents in the sense of causal attribution.
The decision for each individual is in what sorts of systems, potential or actual, we wish to maintain creditworthiness. Seems to be like right now we barely even have language, so other sorts of debts are mostly dramatic or customary, as are property claims.

Violence by Submission

There are object-level situations where for reasons external to the social graph, one person is in charge of another. E.g. some kinds of advice, or a military officer commanding soldiers. Then sometimes people play out dramatic scenes in which one person plays the role of being in charge of another.

Someone can invoke a dramatic scene or influence/control how it plays out, regardless of what their role within the scene is. So there's no reason you can't aggress (according to the civil law frame) against someone via submitting (according to the dramatic frame) to them.

Likewise, there are actual situations where one person transgresses against another, there are also scenes people play out where they play the roles of transgressor and victim, and there's nothing necessarily preventing the person invoking or controlling the scene from playing out the victim role.

The relationship between domination-submission relations, and transgressor-victim relations, is that the person in the "dominator" role is the presumptive scapegoat if anything bad happens, since they're "in charge." This is very explicit in the case of scapegoat-kings of the kind that Girard writes about.

One thought on “Debt, Submission, and the Technical Definition of Drama

  1. Anonymous

    You might be interested in Micheal Hudson and his thoughts on neo-feudalism if you are interested in debts and submission

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