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Debt

Cover of Debt

Debt

The First 5,000 Years
Now in paperback: David Graeber's "fresh . . . fascinating . . . thought-provoking . . . and exceedingly timely" (Financial Times) history of debt

Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom: he shows that before there was money, there was debt. For more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods--that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.

Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like "guilt," "sin," and "redemption") derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it.
Now in paperback: David Graeber's "fresh . . . fascinating . . . thought-provoking . . . and exceedingly timely" (Financial Times) history of debt

Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom: he shows that before there was money, there was debt. For more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods--that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.

Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like "guilt," "sin," and "redemption") derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it.
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About the Author-
  • David Graeber teaches anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has written for Harper's, The Nation, Mute, and The New Left Review. In 2006, he delivered the Malinowski Memorial Lecture at the London School of Economics, an annual talk that honors "outstanding anthropologists who have fundamentally shaped the study of culture." One of the original organizers of Occupy Wall Street, Graeber has been called an "anti-leader of the movement" by Bloomberg Businessweek. The Atlantic wrote that he "has come to represent the Occupy Wall Street message...expressing the group's theory, and its founding principles, in a way that truly elucidated some of the things people have questioned about it."
Reviews-
  • Paul Mason, The Guardian "One of the year's most influential books. Graeber situates the emergence of credit within the rise of class society, the destruction of societies based on 'webs of mutual commitment' and the constantly implied threat of physical violence that lies behind all social relations based on money."
  • Drake Bennett, Bloomberg Businessweek "An alternate history of the rise of money and markets, a sprawling, erudite, provocative work."
  • Jesse Singal, Boston Globe "[A]n engaging book. Part anthropological history and part provocative political argument, it's a useful corrective to what passes for contemporary conversation about debt and the economy."
  • Charles Mudede, The Stranger "Graeber's book has forced me to completely reevaluate my position on human economics, its history, and its branches of thought. A Marxism without Graeber's anthropology is beginning to feel meaningless to me."
  • The L Magazine "The world of borrowing needs a little demystification, and David Graeber's Debt is a good start."
  • Booklist "Controversial and thought-provoking, an excellent book."
  • Library JournalPraise for David Graeber "This timely and accessible book would appeal to any reader interested in the past and present culture surrounding debt, as well as broad-minded economists."
  • Maurice Bloch, Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics "I consider him the best anthropological theorist of his generation from anywhere in the world."
  • Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell "A brilliant, deeply original political thinker."
  • Marshall Sahlins, Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Profess "If anthropology consists of making the apparently wild thought of others logically compelling in their own cultural settings and intellectually revealing of the human condition, then David Graeber is the consummate anthropologist. Not only does he accomplish this profound feat, he redoubles it by the critical task--now more urgent than ever--of making the possibilities of other people's worlds the basis for understanding our own."
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Debt
Debt
The First 5,000 Years
David Graeber
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