Filed under book | Tags: · anthropology, capitalism, debt, economics, economy, finance, financial crisis, history, market, money, politics, revolution
Before there was money, there was debt.
Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter system–to relieve ancient people from having to haul their goods to market. The problem with this version of history? There’s not a shred of evidence to support it.
Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5,000 years, since the beginning of the agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems. It is in this era, Graeber shows, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.
With the passage of time, however, virtual credit money was replaced by gold and silver coins–and the system as a whole began to decline. Interest rates spiked and the indebted became slaves. And the system perpetuated itself with tremendously violent consequences, with only the rare intervention of kings and churches keeping the system from spiraling out of control. Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history–as well as how it has defined human history, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy.
Publisher Melville House, July 2011
ISBN 1933633867, 9781933633862
original essay (Mute, February 2009)
illustrated essay on the history of debt, which contains excerpts from the book (Triple Canopy, July 2010)
video interview on Greece, includes transcript (Democracy Now!, July 2011)
video interview (PBS: Need to Know, August 2011)
video interview (from 12:48 min, Keiser Report, September 2011)
review (Maryam Monalisa Gharavi, Social Text)Comment (1)