The First 5000 Years

ebook, 576 pages

English language

Published March 20, 2011 by Melville House.

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5 stars (2 reviews)

The author shows that before there was money, there was debt. For 5,000 years humans have lived in societies divided into debtors and creditors. For 5,000 years debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates, laws and religions. The words “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption” come from ancient debates about debt. These terms and the ideas of debt shape our most basic ideas of right and wrong. source

15 editions

Violence ends in Debt

5 stars

David Graeber is a master of taking a familiar idea, then leaving it precisely where it is, and moving you as a reader around it to see it from unexpected angles. In Debt he does this masterfully. Beginning with a critique of the moralistic perspective of debt ("one should pay one's debts"), followed with a sharp denial of a common claim by most modern economists (that barter preceded money), Graeber lays into five thousand years of economic history via meticulous research and his own brand of coy, enjoyable writing.

From an anthropological analysis of contemporary societies to a historical analysis that thankfully takes in European and non-European views, the book is appreciably ambitious. It seamlessly links debt and contemporary economics to war, plunder and violence, something that has been long discussed but rarely so eloquently. It is also not without its flaws or a few broad claims, but Graeber's way …