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Margaret Atwood, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth

The next installment in the CBC Massey Lectures series could not possibly be more timely. Canadian cultural icon, and one of our true literary heavyweights, Margaret Atwood brings her ideas on debt to the stage as a part of the 2008 Massey Lecture Series, an annual week-long series of lectures focusing on a political, social or cultural topic.

Rather than discussing debt purely as a financial concept, Atwood has taken the unique approach of examining debt as a sociological concept. Atwood takes the view that how we perceive debt has been formed by our personal interactions and has, in turn, shaped those personal interactions. Ultimately, the concept of what we “owe” one another is intrinsically built into our collective psyche and it is from that psyche our current world economic crises was born.

The concepts put forward in this book are at worst thought provoking and at best cutting edge. It is as much an examination of who we are as people as it is the financial realities of debt. In Atwood’s capable hands debt becomes a metaphor for the realties of culture, from its infancy oh-so-many a millennia ago to the current predicament our entire world finds itself in today.

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