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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

About That David Graeber Reading

Posted by Jacob Schraer on Tue, Jan 24, 2012 at 1:59 PM

A word about David Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 Years. The book is fascinating, no matter what your views on investment banks, the IMF, or capitalism. Graeber is definitively not objective, but he makes no secret of this and presents his case in thought provoking, context-free manner. That's what makes anthropology so great! But Alison's not paying me for a whole review so let's refer to the experts who have actually finished the book...

The New York Times has an informative review. In summation:

In the best tradition of anthropology, Graeber treats debt ceilings, subprime mortgages and credit default swaps as if they were the exotic practices of some self-destructive tribe. Written in a brash, engaging style, the book is also a philosophical inquiry into the nature of debt — where it came from and how it evolved. Graeber’s claim is that the past 400 years of Western history represent a grievous departure from how human societies have traditionally thought about our obligations to one another.

Businessweek has an engaging profile, including this tidbit:

It would be wrong to call Graeber a leader of the protesters, since their insistently nonhierarchical philosophy makes such a concept heretical. Nor is he a spokesman, since they have refused thus far to outline specific demands. Even in Zuccotti Park, his name isn’t widely known. But he has been one of the group’s most articulate voices, able to frame the movement’s welter of hopes and grievances within a deeper critique of the historical moment. “We are watching the beginnings of the defiant self-assertion of a new generation of Americans, a generation who are looking forward to finishing their education with no jobs, no future, but still saddled with enormous and unforgivable debt,” Graeber wrote in a Sept. 25 editorial published online by the Guardian. “Is it really surprising they would like to have a word with the financial magnates who stole their future?”

For a wonkier review, check out this Bookforum piece. And for a little history, read Graeber's 2002 essay on the globalization movement.

Go to the Alberta Rose Theater tonight for what promises to be good conversation!


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