Friday, June 21, 2013

David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years

David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years
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One of the puzzling things about all the theories about the origins of money that we’ve been looking at so far is that they almost completely ignore the evidence of anthropology. Anthropologists do have a great deal of knowledge of how economies within stateless societies actually worked-how they still work in places where states and markets have been unable to completely break up existing ways of doing things. There are innumerable studies of, say, the use of cattle as money in eastern or southern Africa, of shell money in the Americas (wampum being the most famous example) or Papua New Guinea, bead money, feather money, the use of iron rings, cowries, spondylus shells, brass rods, or woodpecker scalps. The reason that this literature tends to be ignored by economists is simple: “primitive currencies” of this sort is only rarely used to buy and sell things, and even when they are, never primarily to buy and sell everyday items such as chickens or eggs or shoes or potatoes. Rather than being employed to acquire things, they are mainly used to rearrange relations between people. Above all, to arrange marriages and to settle disputes, particularly those arising from murders or personal injury.
NOTE: An obvious must-read for any serious thinker.
Note: Updated with new .EPUB link.

1 comment:

  1. The link to the PDF file hosted at is either invalid or deleted.