Debt: The First 5,000 Years

Front Cover
Melville House, Jul 12, 2011 - Business & Economics - 534 pages
8 Reviews
Now in paperback: David Graeber’s “fresh . . . fascinating . . . thought-provoking . . . and exceedingly timely” (Financial Times) history of debt
Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom: he shows that before there was money, there was debt. 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.

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Review: Debt: The First 5,000 Years

User Review  - Goodreads

Reading this book has made a permanent change in the way I think about money and debt. This is one of handful of books I have read which has opened my mind to an entirely new way of thinking about ... Read full review

Review: Debt: The First 5,000 Years

User Review  - Goodreads

Okay, let's just all agree, if there is any justice among gods or men, that this book will sweep The Wealth of Nations out of its spot in history, and will go on to influence how we think about economics for the next 5,000 years. That is all. Read full review

About the author (2011)

David Graeber teaches anthropology at the London School of Economics. He has written for Harper’s, The Nation, Mute, and The New Left Review. In 2006, he delivered the Malinowski Memorial Lecture at the London School of Economics, an annual talk that honors “outstanding anthropologists who have fundamentally shaped the study of culture.” One of the original organizers of Occupy Wall Street, Graeber has been called an “anti-leader of the movement” by Bloomberg Businessweek. The Atlantic wrote that he “has come to represent the Occupy Wall Street message...expressing the group’s theory, and its founding principles, in a way that truly elucidated some of the things people have questioned about it.”

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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