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Steve Bollom's review of Debt:The First 5,000 Years

Page history last edited by Stephen Bollom 9 years, 8 months ago

DEBT : The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber (Melville House Publishing 2012)


This is the most fascinating book that I have yet to read on the subject of money systems and our relationship to debt. It confronts the myth at the heart of economic theory about the origin and nature of money by referring extensively to anthropological and historical evidence:


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.


It's quite a long book, but well written, very readable and filled with many case histories and interesting accounts of different cultures' approach to debt and money. If you are looking for an historical overview of our cultural attitudes toward debt (in it's broadest sense) then I strongly recommend this read. 

Graeber has lectured in anthropology in UK and USA and was one of the founders of Occupy Wall Street. He is credited with the slogan 'We are the 99%'.

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