In her book A Dívida Impagável (2019) (Unpayable Debt), Denise Ferreira da Silva deals with the problem concerning the lack of tools in historical materialism capable of addressing the role of slavery in capital accumulation. She argues that enslavement is constitutive of legal-economic architectures owned by capital (that is not temporally separated from or prior to capitalization processes). The rules of the social structure bequeathed by modernity that occlude racial violence in its various shades are still in force. In this way, the concept of unpayable debt, which gives the book its title, concerns the continued exploitation of the descendants of enslaved people in Western societies. The debt being “an obligation that is carried but that must not be paid” (Ferreira da Silva, 2019, p. 154). Or, they are debts in economic terms but not in the ethical sense, and for this reason, they should not be paid (because they are the result of a racist system). A fact explained by the author in her analysis of Kindred (1979) by Octávia E. Butler and subprime loans linked to the global financial crisis of 2008.
Ferreira da Silva calls the world bequeathed by modernity with its ontological and epistemological pillars, the Ordered World, where people are categorized by race and separated from each other and from the rest of what makes up the World. In this way, the paradigm shift proposed by the author is based on the notion of Plenum, which characterizes an Implicated World in opposition to the Ordered World. This world is designed and carried out in the colonial, capitalist and patriarchal processes.
The unpayable debt is related to the process of continuous expropriation to which some bodies have been subjected throughout history. The Implied World, based on the Plenum model, introduces the possibility of thinking about the world differently. The Plenum is the possibility of life, of another life, in other onto-epistemological perspectives, which understands the implication of people and things in the world on one another. In other words, the Plenum is about a universe in which every body that exists in the world could express the universe uniquely, but at the same time, they would express all the other things that exist in the universe.
Collectivity rather than individuality is crucial to consider when demarcating the difference between the Ordered World of modernity–which classifies, separates and creates hierarchies–and the perspectives presented by Ferreira da Silva. Plenum is an Implicated World, in which “sociality is no longer neither cause nor effect of relationships involving separate existents, but the uncertain condition under which everything that exists is a singular expression of each and all others–as current-virtual existences of the universe, that is, as Corpus Infinitum” (Ferreira da Silva, 2019, p. 46 [italics in the original]).
FERREIRA DA SILVA, Denise. A Dívida Impagável. Tradução: PACKER, Amilcar; DAHER, Pedro. São Paulo: Oficina de Imaginação Política e Living Commons, 2019. 198p.