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WCF Talk with Nicholas Gane

"Debt, Usury and the Ongoing Crises of Capitalism"

Held on Thursday, 15th of November 2018

5.00-6.30pm, University of Warwick, E2.02 (Social Sciences)


In his talk, Nick Gane addressed a neglected concept within studies of debt and finance: usury, or the existence of a free-market in credit that allows lenders (rather than the state or church) to set the rate at which interest is charged on loans. This question of usury returned to prominence following the financial crisis as ‘pay-day’ lenders offered loans at up to 5,000% APR to those who had little hope of procuring money through other means. The regulation of ‘payday’ loan providers became a key point of public concern following campaigns by trade unions, Occupy and religious groups, and new government regulations were introduced in the UK (and elsewhere) to regulate usurious forms of credit agreements. This call for the state to regulate usury, however, was not new as it was central to many debates within late-18th and 19th Century political economy: from Adam Smith through to Jeremy Bentham. The talk returned to these debates in order to argue that usury is a neglected problem that has continued relevance today.


Nicholas Gane is Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, UK. His recent research centres on the history of neoliberalism, and the relation of neoliberal reason to sociological thought. His most recent book is
Max Weber and Contemporary Capitalism (Palgrave, 2012).


Nick Gane Talk