Debt: The First 5,000 Years Audio CD – Audiobook, 1 Nov 2013
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Fresh...fascinating...Graeber's book is not just thought provoking, but also exceedingly timely. ----Gillian Tett, Financial Times
[Graeber's] writings on anthropological theory are outstanding. I consider him the best anthropological theorist of his generation from anywhere in the world. ----Maurice Bloch, Professor of Anthropology, LSE
An alternate history of the rise of money and markets, a sprawling, erudite, provocative work. -- --Drake Bennett, Bloomberg Business Week
The most important theory book I've read this year an essential take on the current crisis by an anarchist anthropologist who combines credentials with readability. Laurie Penny's Book of 2012 --New Statesman
An alternate history of the rise of money and markets, a sprawling, erudite, provocative work. ----Drake Bennett, Bloomberg Business Week --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
DAVID GRAEBER teaches anthropology at the London School of Economics. He is the author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years, Towards an Anthropological Theory of Value, Lost People: Magic and the Legacy of Slavery in Madagascar, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire, and Direct Action: An Ethnography. He has written for The Guardian, Harper's, The Nation, The Baffler, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New Left Review. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Seriously, this is a great book. It teaches, generates reactions, inspires new thoughts and encourages further exploration. You want to strangle the author at a couple of points, and he's not short of opinions worth strangling someone about. There are (some) laughs. A previous reviewer rightly notes the lacuna of Hayek. But ... Graeber is an anthropologist squaring off against entire professions and generations of economists and financiers and bankers and government monetary policy-makers across a new battlefield (the study of how people behave). He scores some telling hits - the myth of the origins of barter, new ways of looking at the reasons behind the rise (till recently) of the West (and it isn't pleasant), the rise and fall of paper money in China, why the state matters, faith-salvation-and-debt, and builds a fundamental premise - communities form when people are prepared to be indebted to one another.
If this were the last book on the subject, sure it's incomplete and has a few flaws. But it's not the last; rather a fundamental read along an important road - when would we know our financial system is working?
He also tells us some fascinating tales about how other societies have organised exchange. For me this is where he's at his strongest. The book is worth the price alone just to hear about the Gunwinggu tribe who seem to have sorted out a very appealing alternative to capitalist economic relations. In the same vein, the Lele tribe's 'village wife' adds some more spice to the story, as Graeber goes where economists fear to tread; to the idea that we are ambivalent sexual creatures not just self-interested rational automotons. Slavery, sex, death, war and marriage across human history form the backdrop to his examination of debt. What's not to like?
Well, there are a couple of things that knocked one star from this review. For me Greaber fails to distinguish between money and currency. Although this is a common problem in almost everything I've ever read about money. Towards the close of the book he describes money as 'not "really" anything'. This feels like a bit of a cop out. Would he same the same about love?
A more serious criticism is his failure to even mention the Lord of Libertarianism, Hayek. For Hayek, money was a institution born of price that was determined through the magic of markets. Graeber has interesting stuff to say about free markets and the state; he tackles Adam Smith, and finds sympathy with Keynes. But Hayek remains the elephant in the room.
Anthropology has so much to teach us about money, debt, and exchange. It should be a requirement that anyone who refers to themselves as a banker or economist should study it. Graeber's book would be a good place to start.
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.Read more ›
So how did money originate? It began, explains Graeber, with conquest and extortion. Some violent patriarchal thug - Hernan Cortes in Mexico is a recent European illustration - persuades his henchmen to sign up for a campaign of rape, pillage and slaughter. The project rests on a promise: once the loot has been stolen, the accomplices may expect their share. So before setting out, the adventurer must issue his promissory notes - his advance undertakings to pay. These can be accepted and circulated as tokens of value - but only on one condition. Sufficient trust must prevail. But trust in this context differs in kind from that which so inspired Mauss. We're not talking about gift-giving or love.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a real eye opener, and I'm only 1/3 way in. A truly excellent readPublished 1 month ago by A well travelled reader
A different story for Debt, written by an anthropologist. I really enjoyed reading this book and I find the new perspective of looking at the history of debt quite fascinating,Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
As someone with quite a broad knowledge of the way finance works, it was great to find out there were things I did not know. Read morePublished 4 months ago by S. Small
Badly over-rated. Chapter 5 is un-readable; BUT the last chapters are excellent.
Perhaps a little editing would have done good; too many pages, too many shallow... Read more
What a load of bulls***. Never read so much racism, particularly towards the worlds majority indigenous people. Literally thew this book across the room and against a wall. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Myrdle Court Press
A highly original book full of assumption breaking ideas which challenge much of what we have been taught and told about the nature of economic behavior.Published 8 months ago by Richard
An eye opener for those who haven't realised the violence implied by the concept of debt.Published 8 months ago by Xamath
The debunking of the parable of the barter economy is not just good it is excellent and long overdue. Every economics text book contains this myth. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Mr. Trevor Morgan
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