Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter system--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 beginning of the agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems. It is in this era, Graeber shows, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.
With the passage of time, however, virtual credit money was replaced by gold and silver coins--and the system as a whole began to decline. Interest rates spiked and the indebted became slaves. And the system perpetuated itself with tremendously violent consequences, with only the rare intervention of kings and churches keeping the system from spiraling out of control. 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.
"[A]n engaging book. Part anthropological history and part provocative political argument, it's a useful corrective to what passes for contemporary conversation about debt and the economy."
—Jesse Singal, Boston Globe
"Controversial and thought-provoking, an excellent book."
"This timely and accessible book would appeal to any reader interested in the past and present culture surrounding debt, as well as broad-minded economists."
"His 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 at the London School of Economics and European Professor at the College de France
David Graeber teaches anthropology at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He is the author of Towards an Anthropological Theory of Value, Lost People, and Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire. He has written for Harper's, The Nation, Mute, andThe New Left Review.