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Debt: The First 5,000 Years

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Debt: The First 5,000 Years Cover

ISBN13: 9781933633862
ISBN10: 1933633867
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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 preceded 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.

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Review:

"[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

Review:

"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." The Globe and Mail

Review:

"Controversial and thought-provoking, an excellent book." Booklist

Synopsis:

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.

About the Author

David Graeber is an anthropologist and activist who teaches at the University of London. Active in numerous direct-action political organizations, he is the author of Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology; Towards an Anthropological Theory of Value; Direct Action: An Ethnography; and Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 6 comments:

Daniel Hatch, August 4, 2012 (view all comments by Daniel Hatch)
If you've been brought up on classical economics, then this book is going to shake up your world a bit. Graeber is an anthropologist working extensively on the origin of money and debt. His conclusions were eye-opening to me and I think help explain a great deal of the current day problems in the world. Even if you don't agree with Graeber, understanding his perspective explains why there are mass demonstrations every time the G8 or the IMF come to town.
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Garret Hantke, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by Garret Hantke)
One of the best of 2011. Graeber describes, in no uncertain terms, who the money and credit system was created to serve. Hint: if there are less than 6 digits in your annual earnings, it isn't you.
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John Milliken, January 2, 2012 (view all comments by John Milliken)
This is THE must read book for 'the 99%' and Occupy crowd. Debt, the First 5,000 Years articulates the social history of debt as well as the how and why of the current financial world structure. Mr. Graeber, Professor of Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London, has constructed an eminently readable, enjoyable and informative work.
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View all 6 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9781933633862
Publisher:
Melville House Publishing
Subject:
Social history
Author:
Graeber, David
Subject:
Economic History
Subject:
World - General
Subject:
World History-General
Subject:
Economics - Theory
Subject:
Business-History and Biography
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20110731
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
544
Dimensions:
9.2 x 6.2 x 1.6 in 1.6563 lb

Related Subjects


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Business » History and Biographies
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History and Social Science » Anthropology » General
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History and Social Science » World History » General

Debt: The First 5,000 Years
0 stars - 0 reviews
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Product details 544 pages Melville House Publishing - English 9781933633862 Reviews:
"Review" by , "His writings on anthropological theory are outstanding. I consider him the best anthropological theorist of his generation from anywhere in the world."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "Controversial and thought-provoking, an excellent book."
"Synopsis" by , 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.

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