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Debt: The First 5,000 Years

by: David Graeber

Publisher: Melville House Publishing (2011)


Staff Pick by comrade: Lucas "Sassy" Smith

Graeber traces the three interweaving paths of debt, money and violence through all of recorded human history and many non-literate cultures the world over. But don't let his utterly readable writing style fool you -- some of the paths get a little hard to follow and I found myself rereading parts. Despite my backtracking, 'Debt' is well worth the effort: laying bare capitalism's grounding in physical violence and it's inevitable reduction of everything it touches to quantifiable units of exchange; emphasizing that markets aren't tied to capitalism and that exchange is a fundamental element of human sociality, albeit one element amongst many.

The books focus -- debt in all it's many facets -- leaves Graeber little room to explore alternate metaphors in which to base both morality and exchange, something that was intentional but left me wanting: Graeber is incredibly intelligent -- he could basically talk about anything and I would listen with rapt attention. Which is to say, everything he does include is informative, engaging, and so damn fun to read.