Dienst, Richard. The Bonds of Debt: Borrowing Against the Common Good.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Purk, Janice Kay
Pub Date: 03/22/2012
Publication: Name: International Social Science Review Publisher: Pi Gamma Mu Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 Pi Gamma Mu ISSN: 0278-2308
Issue: Date: Spring-Summer, 2012 Source Volume: 87 Source Issue: 1-2
Topic: NamedWork: The Bonds of Debt: Borrowing Against the Common Good (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Dienst, Richard
Accession Number: 294895890
Full Text: Dienst, Richard. The Bonds of Debt: Borrowing Against the Common Good. New York: Verso Publications, 2011. x + 200 pages. Cloth, $24.95.

The timeliness of this publication cannot be denied with the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement as one might think that those in the movement have read Richard Dienst's analysis of the current debt crisis in the world. Dienst, an associate professor of English at Rutgers University, explores the current world economy through the lens of history and sociology through an examination of market ideology which is working its way deeper into the texture of every aspect of social life. The credit crisis has pushed the common person to new levels of indebtedness. Now the world is so far into the red that it defies understanding. Deinst's work offers insight toward that understanding. He strives to clarify the process that has brought the world to this place, linking the predictions of the past and warnings of Karl Marx and others.

Today, the top members of society are not viewed as the creators of wealth but as those who simply make money: bankers, insurance brokers, fund managers, and the legion of traders who maneuver their product for economic gain. The financial crisis that has followed this ideology is explored throughout this book. Dienst first investigates the construction of materialism of society today. "The market ideology has wound its way deeper into social life becomes something more absolute" (p. 2). As a consequence, indebtedness has become the norm of society. The author relates this back to the works of Marx and his concerns about the world of capitalism.

The author's review of Marx's critique of capitalism leads one forward to a consideration of the financial crisis, global poverty, media politics, and radical theory. That indebtedness is what we are born into in the new economy, both the public and private. It leads to higher levels of inequality; half of the world's adults hold only 1% of global wealth. These issues are hardly surprising to us in the social sciences. Dienst's review, however, brings in rich ties to the theorist works in the various fields of social sciences since he is a cultural and literary theorist, not an economist or other social scientist. The book is written with a look at the current issues and players in the world economy, including President Barack Obama and the rock star/humanitarian Bono. The author uses humor to explore these issues as well, especially in his open letter to Bono and in his analysis of Marx in which Dienst reviews his work though story telling or "reading Marx like a child."

The author leads the reader to consider what needs to be done to better society and the world. In so doing, he leads one to explore the current movement of Occupy Wall Street in order to consider whether this will lead us to a better world or will we continue on the road of the rich getting richer. Dienst's conclusions include his belief that we are burdened not by too much debt but too little. Human productivity requires indebtedness to maintain a capitalistic economy which turns the reciprocal dynamic of indebtedness into an inert and strictly material exchange. Additionally, he asks us to explore the need to depend on each other. That is a goal just as important as being free. As Dienst puts it, "[k]nowing how to form bonds that make it possible to live together freely, we must also know how to break the bonds that deter us from living at all" (p. 186).

The information in this text leads to a very interesting discussion of the problems of the bonds of debt and the concerns and fears for the future with some thoughts for ways to change society. However, this reviewer found the book difficult to use to evaluate the issues at a deeper level, and, at times, difficult to follow the author's discussions. The analysis of the popular items placed in front of us by the media and the political system make this book worth reading if it leads us to reassess our own learning and assumptions as members of the social science community.

Janice Kay Purk, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Sociology

Mansfield University

Mansfield, Pennsylvania
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.