5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Economics as if Adam Smith didn't matter,
This review is from: Debt: The First 5,000 Years (Hardcover)I've given this book 5 stars because I'm convinced that it has the potential to change the conventional narrative about economics and money, and in doing so can help us navigate towards a more humane economy that better serves the long-term interests of humanity...
Debt is a long overdue anthropological view of money and of human economies (by "anthropological" I mean it starts many thousands of years before Adam Smith!) In his exploration, Graeber challenges much of the conventional wisdom that we all "know" about economics and money.
The breadth of material that Graeber covers is extraordinarily ambitious and though anchored in the perspective of social anthropology, he also draws on economics and finance, law, history, classics, sociology, linguistics, and philosophy.
Few mere mortals can keep up with such multidisciplinary competence, so I was delighted to discover that CrookedTimber dot org has done a "seminar" on the book. (Look for the Book Events link on the bottom right) They draw on experts and scholars from many of these different disciplines to provide some important and fascinating critical perspective. Graeber himself responds in perhaps slightly too pugnacious but nonetheless enlightening detail.
Oh - In case you haven't heard... In addition to being a world-reknown intellectual anthropologist, Graeber is a world-reknown intellectual anarchist. This anarchist label is typically used to try discredit him and I admit that it gave me pause for thought about his motives in writing such a book. I have followed him closely on Twitter since starting this book though, and I have heard little to fear from his worldview and much to respect. In these current troubled times, I'm willing to listen to anyone who has a coherent story that challenges the orthodoxy that we hear from mainstream media, business leaders, and politicians. Graeber's core theses feel sound and they are well presented in an entertaining and highly educational book.
I'm convinced that if we are going to find our way out of the current mess then we need to think deeper and wider than just unrolling 30 years or so of neoliberal orthodoxy - What was happening before was just as damaging to long-term human flourishing and was just as surely destroying our only planet (although admittedly at a slightly less breakneck pace.)
By taking an anthropological view, Graeber helps shine a light on what it is about human economies that make them humane...
If you're the kind of person who loves to have your moral and intellectual foundations challenged, then this book is for you. The first chapter is free online at mhpbooks dot com - check it out and make your own call on whether it is worth investing in the full book.