Can’t Pay Won’t Pay: The Case for Economic Disobedience and Debt Abolition. Debt Collective. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2020. Paper, $15 (ISBN: 978-1-64259-262-7).

Jaime Taylor


While focus on the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic means that parts of this book will, we hope, soon feel dated, Can’t Pay Won’t Pay captures the economic zeitgeist of the early 21st century. A mere five chapters and just over 150 pages, the brevity of the book makes it an accessible introduction to the reasons so many individuals, communities, and even countries have found themselves deeply in debt. While fewer words are spent on remedies to the problem than describing it, the authors recommend the formation of debtors’ unions, modeled on labor unions. Through such unions, they suggest, collective power can force the abolition, or at least renegotiation, of debts. Can’t Pay Won’t Pay will help higher education librarians understand the conditions under which their students are laboring, as well as illuminating both the personal and systemic positions of librarians themselves.

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