I found this an interesting interview about the history of money and debt.
Check it out. What is Debt? – An Interview with Economic Anthropologist David Graeber
David Graeber currently holds the position of Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths University London. Prior to this he was an associate professor of anthropology at Yale University. He is the author of ‘Debt: The First 5,000 Years’ which is available from Amazon.
Interview conducted by Philip Pilkington, a journalist and writer based in Dublin, Ireland.
Philip Pilkington: Let’s begin. Most economists claim that money was invented to replace the barter system. But you’ve found something quite different, am I correct?
David Graeber: Yes there’s a standard story we’re all taught, a ‘once upon a time’ — it’s a fairy tale.
article, thanks for posting it. It highlights the cyclical nature of economies and financial structures very nicely. The analysis appears to be based on societies with written language, so I'd be curious to know what the Graeber's perspective is on those cultures that were spoken-language only. There also seems to be an assumption of exchange only in goods for
It would seem to me that barter would dominate at seasonal tribal gatherings, during which surpluses would be offered in exchange for other surpluses. The exchange wouldn't have to be for physical goods: surpluses have been offered as a communal good, indicating a particular tribe's success and garnering respect or support. The intangible reputation in that case being the return. Records for these transactions simply don't exist and inferring as such would be virtually impossible.
There's a small archipelago nation in the South Pacific that holds such seasonal meetings, although exposure to modern society is eroding the practice. During these events, each tribe would contribute to a communal 'pile' of goods that formed the cumulative surplus
of their respective production after providing sufficiently for themselves. The greater the pile, the prouder the society. The greater the share
of the pile offered by a particular tribe, the greater the respect for that tribe. Out of the surplus, all tribes would then partake of the excess during festivities.
No one blanket explanation seems to cover everything, so I find it's still a chicken & egg situation, but it's good to have different persepectives.
A major point outlined is something that I agree with entirely - debt slavery is occurring and taking root now more than at any other point in history, especially with the mechanism and timing by which it is being expanded. Graeber's explanation helps to pull back the veneer of absurdity that is todays' status quo. I am left wondering whether this is the final stage of our species as we know it.
The issue of capitalism is one that I think isn't as clear, though. I find capitalism to be more of an observation of natural behavioral interaction. Whereas communism, socialism or other forms of centralized governance describe a structure to be maintained, capitalism is an observation of an order that arises naturally. This is actually very well examined by Eric S. Raymond
in The Cathedral and the Bazaar