Debt : the first 5,000 years /
David Graeber.
imprint
Brooklyn, N.Y. : Melville House, c2011.
description
534 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
9781933633862 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Brooklyn, N.Y. : Melville House, c2011.
isbn
9781933633862 (alk. paper)
contents note
On the experience of moral confusion -- The myth of barter -- Primordial debts -- Cruelty and redemption -- A brief treatise on the moral grounds of economic relations -- Games with sex and death -- Honor and degradation, or, on the foundations of contemporary civilization -- Credit versus bullion, and the cycles of history -- The axial age (800 BC - 600 AD) -- The middle ages (600 AD - 1450 AD) -- Age of the great capitalist empires (1450-1971) -- (1971- ).
catalogue key
7797752
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [455]-492) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2012-01-01:
In this extensive volume, Graeber (Goldsmiths College, Univ. of London) provides a fascinating anthropological history of debt and debt relations. For a 500-plus-page book, it is extremely lively, with numerous fascinating descriptions of debt over time and across different societies. Graeber uses anthropological history to show that the many functions of money and debt across societies depend upon the culture of the community. For example, he points out that to make some things sellable, they need to be removed from their current context. The greatest contribution of this volume, however, is to demonstrate to economists that their assumptions about the origins of money coming from a barter economy are inconsistent with the historical record. While this reviewer disagrees with Graeber about how much his work undermines the value of economics as a social science, his research highlights the downside of armchair theorizing. His work, however, is not likely to gain much traction with economists for rhetorical reasons; instead of trying to convince economists why they are wrong, Graeber writes to convince the noneconomist. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduate through research audiences. J. C. Hall Beloit College
Appeared in Library Journal on 2011-07-29:
Debt has always been present in human society, according to Graeber (anthropology, Goldsmiths, Univ. of London; Towards an Anthropological Theory of Value). Here he lays out an absorbing history of how and why it has existed. He begins by debunking current beliefs that debt evolved from the bartering of products, followed by the use of money and then the advent of credit. Incorporating a wealth of historical and anthropological examples, he shows that even in societies without cash there is a deeply entrenched notion of debt that can take the form of favors or obligations. The Eskimo in Greenland, for example, give or do things for others in an unspoken compact that entitles them to reciprocal goods or treatment. He also explores ancient financial records by looking at early texts like Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets as well as the current relationship between the International Monetary Fund and Third World debtor nations and shows the inequity involved. Ultimately, he contends that the human condition is predicated upon a creditor/debtor compact. Verdict 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.-Brian Renvall, Mesalands Community Coll., Tucumcari, NM (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
Review Quotes
"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." - Charles Mudede, The Stranger Praise for David Graeber “I consider him the best anthropological theorist of his generation from anywhere in the world.” -Maurice Bloch, professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics "A brilliant, deeply original political thinker." - Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell “A scholar whose books and articles are used in college classrooms around the world and an anarchist who is a card-carrying member of the Industrial Workers of the World.” -The New York Times “He’s a public intellectual. He speaks out. He participates. He’s not someone who simply does good scholarship; he’s an activist and a controversial person.” -Stanley Aronowitz “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.” -Marshall Sahlins, University of Chicago From the Hardcover edition.
"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." -Paul Mason, The Guardian "The book is more readable and entertaining than I can indicate... It is a meditation on debt, tribute, gifts, religion and the false history of money. Graeber is a scholarly researcher, an activist and a public intellectual. His field is the whole history of social and economic transactions." -Peter Carey , The Observer "An alternate history of the rise of money and markets, a sprawling, erudite, provocative work." - Drake Bennett, Bloomberg Businessweek "[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." - Jesse Singal, Boston Globe "Fresh... fascinating... Graeber's book is not just thought-provoking, but also exceedingly timely." -Gillian Tett, Financial Times (London) "Terrific... In the best anthropological tradition, he helps us reset our everyday ideas by exploring history and other civilizations, then boomeranging back to render our own world strange, and more open to change." -Raj Patel, The Globe and Mail "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." - Charles Mudede, The Stranger "The world of borrowing needs a little demystification, and David Graeber's Debtis a good start." - The L Magazine "Controversial and thought-provoking, an excellent book." - Booklist "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." - Library Journal Praise for David Graeber "I consider him the best anthropological theorist of his generation from anywhere in the world." -Maurice Bloch, Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics "A brilliant, deeply original political thinker." - Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell "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." -Marshall Sahlins, Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago From the Hardcover edition.
"[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." - Jesse Singal, Boston Globe "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." - Charles Mudede, The Stranger "Controversial and thought-provoking, an excellent book." - Booklist Praise for David Graeber “I consider him the best anthropological theorist of his generation from anywhere in the world.” -Maurice Bloch, Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics "A brilliant, deeply original political thinker." - Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell “A scholar whose books and articles are used in college classrooms around the world and an anarchist who is a card-carrying member of the Industrial Workers of the World.” -The New York Times “He’s a public intellectual. He speaks out. He participates. He’s not someone who simply does good scholarship; he’s an activist and a controversial person.” -Stanley Aronowitz, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Urban Education at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York “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.” -Marshall Sahlins, Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and of Social Sciences
-Winner of the Bateson Book Prizeawarded by the Society for Cultural Anthropology "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." -Paul Mason, The Guardian "The book is more readable and entertaining than I can indicate... It is a meditation on debt, tribute, gifts, religion and the false history of money. Graeber is a scholarly researcher, an activist and a public intellectual. His field is the whole history of social and economic transactions." -Peter Carey , The Observer "An alternate history of the rise of money and markets, a sprawling, erudite, provocative work." - Drake Bennett, Bloomberg Businessweek "[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." - Jesse Singal, Boston Globe "Fresh... fascinating... Graeber's book is not just thought-provoking, but also exceedingly timely." -Gillian Tett, Financial Times (London) "Terrific... In the best anthropological tradition, he helps us reset our everyday ideas by exploring history and other civilizations, then boomeranging back to render our own world strange, and more open to change." -Raj Patel, The Globe and Mail "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." - Charles Mudede, The Stranger "The world of borrowing needs a little demystification, and David Graeber's Debtis a good start." - The L Magazine "Controversial and thought-provoking, an excellent book." - Booklist "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." - Library Journal Praise for David Graeber "I consider him the best anthropological theorist of his generation from anywhere in the world." -Maurice Bloch, Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics "A brilliant, deeply original political thinker." - Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell "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." -Marshall Sahlins, Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago From the Hardcover edition.
"His writings on anthropological theory are outstanding. I consider him the best anthropological theorist of his generation from anywhere in the world." --Maurice Bloch, Prof. of Anthropology (emeritus), London School of Economics.
Praise for David Graeber “I consider him the best anthropological theorist of his generation from anywhere in the world.” -Maurice Bloch, professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics “A scholar whose books and articles are used in college classrooms around the world and an anarchist who is a card-carrying member of the Industrial Workers of the World.” -The New York Times “He’s a public intellectual. He speaks out. He participates. He’s not someone who simply does good scholarship; he’s an activist and a controversial person.” -Stanley Aronowitz “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.” -Marshall Sahlins, University of Chicago
"[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." - Jesse Singal, Boston Globe "Graeber's book is not just thought-provoking, but also exceedingly timely." -Financial Times (London) "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." - Charles Mudede, The Stranger "The world of borrowing needs a little demystification, and David Graeber's Debtis a good start." - The L Magazine "Controversial and thought-provoking, an excellent book." - Booklist "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." - Library Journal Praise for David Graeber "I consider him the best anthropological theorist of his generation from anywhere in the world." -Maurice Bloch, Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics "A brilliant, deeply original political thinker." - Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell "A scholar whose books and articles are used in college classrooms around the world and an anarchist who is a card-carrying member of the Industrial Workers of the World." -The New York Times "He's a public intellectual. He speaks out. He participates. He's not someone who simply does good scholarship; he's an activist and a controversial person." -Stanley Aronowitz, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Urban Education at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York "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." -Marshall Sahlins, Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago From the Hardcover edition.
"An alternate history of the rise of money and markets, a sprawling, erudite, provocative work." - Drake Bennett, Bloomberg Businessweek "[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." - Jesse Singal, Boston Globe "Fresh... fascinating... Graeber's book is not just thought-provoking, but also exceedingly timely." -Gillian Tett, Financial Times (London) "Terrific... In the best anthropological tradition, he helps us reset our everyday ideas by exploring history and other civilizations, then boomeranging back to render our own world strange, and more open to change." -Raj Patel, The Globe and Mail "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." - Charles Mudede, The Stranger "The world of borrowing needs a little demystification, and David Graeber's Debtis a good start." - The L Magazine "Controversial and thought-provoking, an excellent book." - Booklist "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." - Library Journal Praise for David Graeber "I consider him the best anthropological theorist of his generation from anywhere in the world." -Maurice Bloch, Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics "A brilliant, deeply original political thinker." - Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell "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." -Marshall Sahlins, Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago From the Hardcover edition.
"[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." - Jesse Singal, Boston Globe "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." - Charles Mudede, The Stranger "The world of borrowing needs a little demystification, and David Graeber's Debtis a good start." - The L Magazine "Controversial and thought-provoking, an excellent book." - Booklist "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." - Library Journal Praise for David Graeber “I consider him the best anthropological theorist of his generation from anywhere in the world.” -Maurice Bloch, Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics "A brilliant, deeply original political thinker." - Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell “A scholar whose books and articles are used in college classrooms around the world and an anarchist who is a card-carrying member of the Industrial Workers of the World.” -The New York Times “He’s a public intellectual. He speaks out. He participates. He’s not someone who simply does good scholarship; he’s an activist and a controversial person.” -Stanley Aronowitz, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Urban Education at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York “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.” -Marshall Sahlins, Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago
Winner of the Bateson Book Prizeawarded by the Society for Cultural Anthropology "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." -Paul Mason, The Guardian "The book is more readable and entertaining than I can indicate... It is a meditation on debt, tribute, gifts, religion and the false history of money. Graeber is a scholarly researcher, an activist and a public intellectual. His field is the whole history of social and economic transactions." -Peter Carey , The Observer "An alternate history of the rise of money and markets, a sprawling, erudite, provocative work." - Drake Bennett, Bloomberg Businessweek "[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." - Jesse Singal, Boston Globe "Fresh... fascinating... Graeber's book is not just thought-provoking, but also exceedingly timely." -Gillian Tett, Financial Times (London) "Terrific... In the best anthropological tradition, he helps us reset our everyday ideas by exploring history and other civilizations, then boomeranging back to render our own world strange, and more open to change." -Raj Patel, The Globe and Mail "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." - Charles Mudede, The Stranger "The world of borrowing needs a little demystification, and David Graeber's Debtis a good start." - The L Magazine "Controversial and thought-provoking, an excellent book." - Booklist "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." - Library Journal Praise for David Graeber "I consider him the best anthropological theorist of his generation from anywhere in the world." -Maurice Bloch, Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics "A brilliant, deeply original political thinker." - Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell "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." -Marshall Sahlins, Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago From the Hardcover edition.
This item was reviewed in:
Boston Globe, July 2011
Library Journal, July 2011
Booklist, August 2011
Globe & Mail, October 2011
Choice, January 2012
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
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--a system that far preceeded cash or organized barter. 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.
Bowker Data Service Summary
Anthropologist David Graeber shows readers that for more than 5000 years, since the beginning of agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods. He also shows that the history of society being divided into creditors and debtors was born in this ancient era.
Main Description
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--a system that far preceeded cash or organized barter. 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 Yearsis 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.
Main Description
Before there was money, there was debt Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter systems-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 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. 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.
Main Description
Before there was money, there was debt Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter systems-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 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. Debt: The First 5,000 Yearsis 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. From the Hardcover edition.
Main Description
Economic history states that money replaced a bartering system, yet there isn't any evidence to support this axiom. Anthropologist Graeber presents a stunning reversal of this conventional wisdom. For more than 5000 years, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods. Since the beginning of the agrarian empires, humans have been divided into debtors and creditors. Through time, virtual credit money was replaced by gold and the system as a whole went into decline. This fascinating history is told for the first time.
Table of Contents
On The Experience of Moral Confusionp. 1
The Myth of Barterp. 21
Primordial Debtsp. 43
Cruelty and Redemptionp. 73
A Brief Treatise on the Moral Grounds of Economic Relationsp. 89
Games with Sex and Deathp. 127
Honor and Degradation, or, On the Foundations of Contemporary Civilizationp. 165
Credit Versus Bullion, And the Cycles of Historyp. 211
The Axial Age (800 BC-600 AD)p. 223
The Middle Ages (600 AD-1450 AD)p. 251
Age of the Great Capitalist Empires (1450-1971)p. 307
(1971-The Beginning of Something Yet to Be Determined)p. 361
Notesp. 393
Bibliographyp. 455
Indexp. 493
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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