Debt: The First 5,000 Years,Updated and Expanded

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Melville House, Dec 9, 2014 - Business & Economics - 566 pages
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Now in paperback, the updated and expanded edition: 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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I came across this book because of the excellent podcast series David Graeber did for the BBC.
The book adds additional depth to the podcasts, and the additional text allows ideas to be considered
more thoroughly.
The book is slightly provocative, for those who class the world into for/against and grand theories of mankind. In reality I found it to be a fair mirror placed against the current state of our civilisation. It certainly provides a series of constructs to analyse your feelings about how you relate into our overall civilisation.
Overall, I think all people would benefit from the podcasts, and if you want to take more time for consideration and reflection after, then the book is an essential.
I wonder how you might change, afterwards...
Heartily recommended.


On the Experience of Moral Confusion
The Myth of Barter
Primordial Debts
Cruelty and Redemption
A Brief Treatise on the Moral Grounds
Games with Sex and Death
Honor and Degradation or On the Foundations
Credit Versus Bullion And the Cycles of History
The Middle Ages 600 AD1450
Age of the Great Capitalist Empires 14501971
The Beginning of Something Yet to

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About the author (2014)

David Graeber teaches anthropology at the London School of Economics. 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.”

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