Debt: The First 5,000 Years
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... show more
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.
Publish date: July 12th 2011
Publisher: Melville House
Pages no: 534
Edition language: English
First half 5 stars, second half 3 stars.When I was in the 5th grade, we had a social studies unit centered around a book called Life On Paradise Island. It was a cartoonish book that told the tale of how a modern economy is developed. It started with the islanders trading coconuts for fish. Of cours...
This comic does in one cartoon what the first chapter of Debt, the First 5000 Years does (pretty well) in one chapter. That said, Debt is really worth your time. You only have to look at the length of the other reviews this book has generated -- and the deep thought and critique contained within t...
Iconoclastic and brilliant -- this is the kind of book where you feel like the scales have fallen from your eyes, and you want to stand on street corners handing out copies and proselytizing. I'll admit frankly there's a lot about finance and debt that still completely puzzles me, but Graeber's thes...
Putting this back into the TBR pile until I'm done with Qing social history -- trying to manage two nonnarrative nonfiction books at once just makes me feel distracted and burdened.
You only have to look at the length of the other reviews this book has generated -- and the deep thought and critique contained within them -- to realize that this is a book worthy of your time. Graeber's examination of the history of debt and its role in civilization has forced me to re-examine ev...