debt (other page of notes from reviews et al)
original (2011) update version(2014) by david graeber
book links to amazon
no more waiting (book recommend to library) and reading reviews of reviews (recorded below) … finally got the book. thank you seth.
ch 1: on the experience of moral confusion
surely one has to pay ones’ debts… the reason it’s so powerful is that ti’s not actually an economic statement: it’s a moral statement.. isn’t paying one’s debts what morality is supposed to be all about? giving people what is due to them.
charles’ (non-resonating) bit on obligation
consumer debt is the lifeblood of our economy…. the very fact that we don’t know what debt is, the very flexibility of the concept, is the basis of its power.
there’s no better way to justify relations founded on violence, to make such relations seem moral, than by reframing them in the language of debt—above all, because it immediately makes it seem that it’s the victim who’s doing something wrong.
Arguments about who really owes what to whom have played a central role in shaping our basic vocabulary of right and wrong.
What, precisely, does it mean to say that our sense of morality and justice is reduced to the language of a business deal?
money’s capacity to turn morality into a matter of impersonal arithmetic – and by doing so, to justify things that would otherwise seem outrageous or obscene.
when one looks a little closer, one discovers that these two elements—the violence and the quantification—are intimately linked.
the way violence, or the threat of violence, turns human relations into mathematics…
there’s nothing new about virtual money. Actually, this was the original form of money.
the one thing that all these misconceptions have in common, we will find, is that they tend to reduce all human relations to exchange.
‘the very principle of exchange emerged largely as an effect of violence – –‘
the real origins of money are to be found in crime and recompense, war and slavery, honor, debt, and redemption.
ch 2: the myth of barter
1776 – adam smith – brings discipline of economics into being. – (330 bc aristotle.) – smith expanded on argument, insisting that property, money, and markets not only existed before political institution but were the very foundation of human society. .. smith’s argument is worth laying out in detail because it is, as i say, the great founding myth of the discipline of economics. (ie: humans’ propensity toward barter/swapping.. even logic and conversation are really just forms of trading – seeking best advantage.. money is just most efficient means..)
then into no evidence/example of a barter economy… not that it doesn’t exist… just never employed as smith imagined, between fellow villagers. ordinarily, it takes place between strangers, even enemies.
the vision of the world that forms the basis of the economics textbooks, which Adam Smith played so large a part in promulgating, has by now become so much a part of our common sense that we find it hard to imagine any other possible arrangement
barter is what you do with those to whom you are not bound by ties of hospitality (or kinship, or much of anything else)
virtual money came first, then coins much later.. unevenly.. never completely replacing credit systems. barter… seems to be largely accidental byproduct… when no access to currency..
ch 3: primordial debts
keynes’ next dramatic assertion: that banks create money, and that there is no intrinsic limit to their ability to do so.
for example, there is a connection between money (german geld), indemnity or sacrifice (old english geild), tax (gothic gild) and, of course, guilt.
the Sumerian word amargi, the first recorded word for “freedom” in any known human language, literally means “return to mother.
biggest problem… the initial assumption: that we begin with an infinite debt to something called “society.” – ie: what is society.
only way of ‘freeing oneself’ … not literally repaying.. but showing debts don’t exist .. because one is not separate to begin with.. [..] .. human freedom would then be our ability to decide for ourselves how we want to do so.
problem… thinking that the guardian of that debt we owe.. is the state
ch 4: cruelty and redemption
nietzsche 1877 – on personal obligation – To set prices, to measure values, to think up equivalencies, to exchange things—that preoccupied man’s very first thinking to such a degree that in a certain sense it’s what thinking itself is.
the human being describes himself as a being which assesses values, which values and measures, as the “inherently calculating animal.”
from peter freuchen’s book of the eskimo:
He thanked him. The man objected indignantly: “Up in our country we are human!” said the hunter. “And since we are human we help each other. We don’t like to hear anybody say thanks for that. What I get today you may get tomorrow. Up here we say that by gifts one makes slaves and by whips one makes dogs.
Rather than seeing himself as human because he could make economic calculations, the hunter insisted that being truly human meant refusing to make such calculations, refusing to measure or remember who had given what to whom, for the precise reason that doing so would inevitably create a world where we began “comparing power with power, measuring, calculating” and reducing each other to slaves or dogs through debt.
nehemiah – the law of jubilee
ch 5: a brief treatise on the moral grounds of economic relations
those tenets have come to be treated as received wisdom, as basically beyond question (one knows one is in the presence of received wisdom when, if one challenges some tenet of it, the first reaction is to treat one as simply ignorant—“You obviously have never heard of the Laffer Curve”; “Clearly you need a course in Economics 101”—the theory is seen as so obviously true that no one exposed to it could possibly disagree).
I will define communism here as any human relationship that operates on the principles of “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.”
The sociology of everyday communism is a potentially enormous field, but one which, owing to our peculiar ideological blinkers, we have been unable to write about because we have been largely unable to see it.
true charity – anonymous – not meant to place the recipient in one’s debt.
ie: santa claus – a benevolent burglar
‘the logic of identity is, always and everywhere, entangled in the logic of hierarchy.‘
(back to author of book of the eskimo) – gift here does not mean something given freely not mutual aid that we can ordinarily expect human beings to provide to one another . to thank someone suggests that he or she might not have acted that way , and that therefore the choice to act this way creates an obligation, a sense of debt – and hence, inferiority.
True, if we were really determined, we could argue (as some do) that communism is a condition of permanent mutual indebtedness, or that hierarchy is constructed out of unpayable debts. But isn’t this just the same old story, starting from the assumption that all human interactions must be, by definition, forms of exchange, and then performing whatever mental somersaults are required to prove it?
.. a set of assumptions of what humans are and what they owe one another, that have by now become so deeply ingrained that we cannot see them.
ch 6: games with sex and death
if we are trying to understand the origins of money here, isn’t the fact that people are using one another as currency at all interesting or significant?
Again, once we remove some of our usual blinders, we can see that matters have changed far less, over the course of the last five thousand years or so, than we really like to think.
“human economies.” By this I mean not that these societies are necessarily in any way more humane (some are quite humane; others extraordinarily brutal), but only that they are economic systems primarily concerned not with the accumulation of wealth, but with the creation, destruction, and rearranging of human beings.
philippe rospabé’s argument on primitive money – not a way to pay debts – but recognizing they can’t be paid.
hierarchical gifts – never occurred to recipients that they should reciprocate
lele – trading human lives – which actually mean (young) woman’s life
in other words, it was only when violence was brought into the equation that there was any question of buying and selling people
we have perhaps a general principle: to make something saleable, in a human economy, one needs to first rip it from its context. that’s what slaves are: people stolen from the community that made them what they are.
The Lele example gave us a hint: to make a human being an object of exchange, one woman equivalent to another, for example, requires first of all ripping her from her context; that is, tearing her away from that web of relations that makes her the unique conflux of relations that she is, and thus, into a generic value capable of being added and subtracted and used as a means to measure debt. This requires a certain violence.
To what degree is it actually constitutive of civilization itself? I am not speaking strictly of slavery here, but of that process that dislodges people from the webs of mutual commitment, shared history, and collective responsibility that make them what they are, so as to make them exchangeable—that is, to make it possible to make them subject to the logic of debt.
dislodging of people.. how to detox that subjection to the logic of debt..
ch 7: honor and degradation
there is every reason to believe that slavery, with its unique ability to rip human beings from their contexts, to turn them in to abstractions, played a key role in the rise of markets everywhere.
reconstructing this history reveals how much our basic concepts of freedom and morality took shape within institutions—notably, but not only, slavery—that we’d sooner not have to think about at all.
to be made a slave is to be stripped of any possible honor.
His problem was that honor is, by definition, something that exists in the eyes of others. To be able to recover it, then, a slave must necessarily adopt the rules and standards of the society that surrounds him, and this means that, in practice at least, he cannot absolutely reject the institutions that deprived him of his honor in the first place. It strikes me that this experience—of only being able to restore one’s lost honor, to regain the ability to act with integrity by acting in accord with the terms of a system that one knows, through deeply traumatic personal experience, to be utterly unjust—is itself one of the most profoundly violent aspects of slavery.
thinking of Ed and convos with Steve et al
this might help explain why throughout most of history, when slaves did rebel against their masters, they rarely rebelled against slavery itself. … the flip side…even slave-owners seemed to feel that this whole arrangement was somehow fundamentally perverse or unnatural.
slavery is the ultimate form of being ripped from one’s context, and thus from all social relationship that make one a human being. another way to put this is that the slave is, in a very real sense, dead.
so – what are we slaves to today. now. no?
one becomes a slave in situations where one would otherwise have died.
slavery is unlike any other form of human relation because it is not a moral relation. slave-owners might dress it up in all sorts of legalistic or paternalistic language, but really this is just window-dressing and no one really believes otherwise; really, it is a relation based purely on violence; a slave must obey because if he doesn’t, he can be beaten, tortured, or killed, and everyone is perfectly well aware of this.
violent men, as we all know are almost invariably obsessed with honor
honor – one part – having everything to do with the kind of violence required to reduce human beings to commodities to begin with
honor is a zero sum game
ancient greek, the word for honor was time
earliest sumerian texts – 3000-2500 bc, women are everywhere… rulers, doctors, merchants, scribes, public officials,….
mid assyrian (lerner) law code dating 1400-1100bc, 1st known reference to veiling in the history of the middle east
greek coinage – first use mainly to pay soldiers, fined, fees to govt… but by 600 bc every greek city-state producing owns (independent) coins
money democratizing – because everybody wanted it
plato captured.. offered for sale.. a libyan philosopher.. recognized him and ransomed him.. annikeris refused to accept money plato offered as thanks.. plato then used the 20 minas to buy land for a school.. the famous academy
property is not really a relation between a person and a thing. it’s an understanding or arrangement between people concerning things.
on freedom being natural and slavery unnatural – so then – property rights et al.. unnatural…
one man’s right is simply another man’s obligation
heroes become heroes by making others small.
in heroic societies, the role of violence is not hidden – it’s glorified.
king and slave are mirror images, in that unlike normal human beings who are defined by their commitments to others, they are defined only by relations of power.
Most of our most precious rights and freedoms are a series of exceptions to an overall moral and legal framework that suggests we shouldn’t really have them in the first place.
..we’re no longer able to imagine what a world based on social arrangements that did not require the continual threat of tasers and surveillance cameras would even look like.
ch 8: credit versus bullion
earliest mention of: freedom; debt prison;
jubilee ness & tax as safety net, ie: keep people from selling children for food
ch 9: the axial age (800-600 bc)
Each case witnessed the development of something akin to a drop-out culture, with ascetics and sages fleeing to the wilderness or wandering from town to town seeking wisdom;
axial age.. birth of philosophies/religions – corresponds almost exactly to period in which coinage was invented – written word no longer limited to priests, admin, merchants… but had become necessary to full participation in civic life..
in both india & china.. invented by private citizens, coinage was quickly monopolized by the state
merchants – ardent supporters of new religion
w/o mass literacy, neither the emergence of mass intellectual movements nor the spread of axial age ideas would have been possible.
growth of markets played a role too, not only helping to free people from the proverbial shackles of status or community, but encouraging a certain habit of rational calculation, of measuring inputs and outputs, means and ends.. – rationality ness
last two adds – like ed reform et al.. seeming to free up.. but only binding more.. by the subtlety of its verbiage.. by the blinders of following others, ie: not listening to own heart
previously used math… mainly by architects and engineers, but which, with the rise of markets, everyone who didn’t want to get cheated at the marketplace had to learn how to do this.
just in case ness… see. that.
then talking of – a strategic move designed to ensure loyalty… speculating on such matters is a major form of daily entertainment.
resonating with – judging motives being our downfall.. again – not listening to own heart
..where the value of an IOU was as much dependent on assessments of its issuer’s character as on his disposable income, and motives of love, envy, pride, etc., could never be completely set aside.
on badges.. proof.. credentials.. how we start not living what we can be.. and instead.. what we think others want us to be.. supposed to ness…
The result, during the Axial Age, was a new way of thinking about human motivation, a radical simplification of motives that made it possible to begin speaking of concepts like “profit” and “advantage”—and imagining that this is what people are really pursuing, in every aspect of existence, as if the violence of war or the impersonality of the marketplace has simply allowed them to drop the pretense that they ever cared about anything else. It was this, in turn, that allowed human life to seem like it could be reduced to a matter of means-to-end calculation, and hence something that could be examined using the same means that one used to study the attraction and repulsion of celestial bodies.
confucius’s time, chinese thinkers were speaking of the pursuit of profit as the driving force in human life.
seth – on art/working for profit is not human
ch 10: the middle ages (600ad-1450ad)
Artificial wealth comprises the things which of themselves satisfy no natural need, for example money, which is a human contrivance. —St. Thomas Aquinas
As kingdoms continued to rise and fall, the world inhabited by kings and princes became increasingly distant from that of most people’s everyday affairs.
1000ad – islam appeared in india – a religion dedicated to eradicating usury (taking interest) altogether.
Apparently, this increasing distance allowed local Brahmins to begin reshaping the new—increasingly rural—society along strictly hierarchical principles.
Artisans and craftsmen fleeing the decline or destruction of cities often ended up as suppliant refugees and, gradually, low-caste clients.
Politically, it is never a particularly good idea to first tell people they are your equals, and then humiliate and degrade them.
The two great threats to the authorities were always the same: the nomadic peoples to the north (who they systematically bribed, but who nonetheless periodically swept over and conquered sections of China) and popular unrest and rebellion. The latter was almost constant, and on a scale unknown anywhere else in human history. There were decades in Chinese history when the rate of recorded peasant uprisings was roughly 1.8 per hour.
on same familiar story – peasants down on luck due to natural disaster or need to pay for funeral – fall into hands of predatory lenders… who seize their fields/houses… forcing them to wrk or pay rent in what had once been their own lands; the threat of rebellion would then drive the govt to institute a dramatic program of reforms.
With all those things that we treat as eternal, that we assume will always be there—our mother’s love, true friendship, sociality, humanity, belonging, the existence of the cosmos—no calculation is necessary, or even ultimately possible; insofar as there is give and take, they follow completely different principles.
lively debate on wondering if reputation.. like land, labor, money, or other resources, itself be considered a form of capital.. – algeria (bourdieu)- quite possible to turn honor into money.. almost impossible to turn money into honor
malacca – on preference to seal transactions with a handshake and a glance at heaven…
value only maintained by constant motion – on money
aristotle – money a social convention, ie: whatever human beings decided that it was
Usury, he observes, must be considered a form of violent robbery, even murder – de Tobia
heady debate in uni – not if usury is sinful and illegal, but precisely why.. not only challenging commerce but questioning the very legitimacy of private property
roman law – began from assumption of absolute private property
on knightly adventure…becoming erroneously popular
knights – originally been a term for freelance warriors,… unable to inherit, forced to band together to seek their fortunes.. gangs… thugs… so dangerous to merchants
jousting fights – means to gain control.. pit knights against each other.. turning their entire existence into a kind of stylized game – culminating in 12th cent
if axial age was age of materialism, middle ages .. age of transcendence..
The common feature seems to be a contract between two parties that begin as equal in which one agrees to become subordinate.
The striking thing about tallies is that even though they might begin as simple tokens of friendship and solidarity, in almost all the later examples, what the two parties actually agree to create is a relation of inequality: of debt, obligation, subordination to another’s orders.
ch 11: age of the great capitalist empires (1450-1971)
origins of modern world economy.. not in europe but in china abandoning use of paper money
forbidden to change their jobs…
Even human relations become a matter of cost-benefit calculation.
It is a structure designed to eliminate all moral imperatives but profit.
..something essential about the psychology of debt. Or, more precisely, perhaps, about the debtor who feels he has done nothing to deserve being placed in his position: the frantic urgency of having to convert everything around oneself into money, and rage and indignation at having been reduced to the sort of person who would do so.
But why “interest”? Why make a general theory of human motivation out of a word that originally meant “penalty for late payment on a loan.
Part of the term’s appeal was that it derived from bookkeeping. It was mathematical. This made it seem objective, even scientific.
“Just as the physical world is ruled by the laws of movement,” wrote Helvétius, in a passage reminiscent of Lord Shang, “no less is the moral universe ruled by laws of interest.”57 And, of course, it was on this assumption that all the quadratic equations of economic theory could ultimately be built.58 The problem is that the origin of the concept is not rational at all.
The story of the origins of capitalism, then, is not the story of the gradual destruction of traditional communities by the impersonal power of the market. It is, rather, the story of how an economy of credit was converted into an economy of interest; of the gradual transformation of moral networks by the intrusion of the impersonal—and often vindictive—power of the state.
The legalization of interest began to change the nature of the playing field. In the 1580s, when interest-bearing loans began to become common between villagers, creditors also began to insist on the use of signed, legal bonds; this led to such an explosion of appeals to the courts that in many small towns, almost every household seemed to be caught up in debt litigation of some sort or other.
..as a result, the fear of debtor’s prison—or worse—came to hang over everyone, and sociability itself came to take on the color of crime.
The criminalization of debt, then, was the criminalization of the very basis of human society.
paper money in china. … bank of england 1694 – genuine paper money. not bonds. kings war debts – ie: debt not owing to king but king owing.. .. decided to recalibrate money.. make it have same value as before… disastrous…
The reforms proceeded top-down, and very slowly, but they did proceed, and they gradually came to create the world where even ordinary, everyday transactions with butchers and bakers were carried out in polite, impersonal terms, with small change, and therefore it became possible to imagine everyday life itself as a matter of self-interested calculation.
the new age came to be increasingly uncomfortable with the political nature of money. Politics, after all, is the art of persuasion; the political is that dimension of social life in which things really do become true if enough people believe them. The problem is that in order to play the game effectively, one can never acknowledge this..
If one does not believe in the king, then the money vanishes with him.
The moment that greed was validated and unlimited profit was considered a perfectly viable end in itself, this political, magical element became a genuine problem, because it meant that even those actors—the brokers, stock-jobbers, traders—who effectively made the system run had no convincing loyalty to anything, even to the system itself.
What was once an impersonal mechanism that compelled people to look at everything around them as a potential source of profit has come to be considered the only objective measure of the health of the human community itself.
Paper money was debt money, and debt money was war money, and this has always remained the case.
in reality, then, the indians had been reduced to slavery; its’ just that, by 1907, no one could openly admit this.
It is the secret scandal of capitalism that at no point has it been organized primarily around free labor.
This is a scandal not just because the system occasionally goes haywire, as it did in the Putumayo, but because it plays havoc with our most cherished assumptions about what capitalism really is—particularly that, in its basic nature, capitalism has something to do with freedom.
..because both the relation between master and slave, and between employer and employee, are in principle impersonal: whether you’ve been sold or you’re simply rented yourself out, the moment money changes hands, who you are is supposed to be unimportant; all that’s important is that you are capable of understanding orders and doing what you’re told.
Samuel Bentham, the engineer put in charge of reforming the dockyards, had to turn them into a regular police state in order to be able to institute a regime of pure wage labor—to which purpose he ultimately conceived the notion of building a giant tower in the middle to guarantee constant surveillance, an idea that was later borrowed by his brother Jeremy for the famous Panopticon.
men like smith and benthan were idealists, even utopians.
? – based on science of people ness then.. no? ie: won’t work unless forced… surveilled..
smith’s work is so important.. he created the vision of an imaginary world almost entirely free of debt and credit, and therefore, free of guilt and sin; … knowing prearranged by god.. marx: even if we start with economists’ utopian vision … as long as we also allow some people to control productive capital …and leave others with nothing to sell but their brains and bodies.. (?) – marx knowing that not everyone was factory worker.. but if they got this to work — system would fall apart. david saying.. it would never work (ie: it’s the system)
on economists’ assumptions.. being embraced by leaders of workers’ movements.. so much so that they have come to shape our visions of what alternatives to capitalism might be like.
national debt – money borrowed from future generations
ch 12: the beginning of something yet to be determined (1971-present)
Free your mind of the idea of deserving, of the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think. —Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed
nixon – paper money no longer linked to gold – 71… from 41. vaults under twin towers.. actually two blocks away… – on being able to steal gold.. transfer of gold once new tally is made
..as an anthropologist, I cannot help but see this confused play of symbols as important in and of itself, even, of playing a crucial role in maintaining the forms of power it claims to represent. In part, these systems work because no one knows how they really work.
reading ch 12 and James‘ words may 2015 – at same time.. all of us. need to wake up.
..since Nixon’s floating of the dollar, it has become evident that it’s only the wizard behind the screen who seems to be maintaining the viability of the whole arrangement.
One element, however, tends to go flagrantly missing in even the most vivid conspiracy theories about the banking system, let alone in official accounts: that is, the role of war and military power. There’s a reason why the wizard has such a strange capacity to create money out of nothing. Behind him, there’s a man with a gun.
..modern money is based on government debt, and that governments borrow money in order to finance wars.
Nixon floated the dollar in order to pay for the cost of a war in which, during the period of 1970–1972 alone, he ordered more than four million tons of explosives and incendiaries dropped on cities and villages across Indochina—causing one senator to dub him “the greatest bomber of all time.
(Henry Ford once remarked that if ordinary Americans ever found out how the banking system really worked, there would be a revolution tomorrow.)
alan watts ness
..the U.S. debt remains, as it has been since 1790, a war debt: the United States continues to spend more on its military than do all other nations on earth put together,..
The U.S. military, unlike any other, maintains a doctrine of global power projection: that it should have the ability, through roughly 800 overseas military bases, to intervene with deadly force absolutely anywhere on the planet. In a way, though, land forces are secondary; at least since World War II, (45) the key to U.S. military doctrine has always been a reliance on air power.
The essence of U.S. military predominance in the world is, ultimately, the fact that it can, at will, with only a few hours’ notice, drop bombs at absolutely any point on the surface of the planet.13 No other government has ever had anything remotely like this sort of capability. In fact, a case could well be made that it is this very cosmic power that holds the entire world monetary system, organized around the dollar, together.
it’s a form of power that works largely insofar as it remains symbolic.
When Saddam Hussein made the bold move of singlehandedly switching from the dollar to the euro in 2000, followed by Iran in 2001, this was quickly followed by American bombing and military occupation.
Much though their beneficiaries do not like to admit it, all imperial arrangements do, ultimately, rest on terror.
.. they have not been created to protect debtors, but to enforce the rights of creditors. the international monetary fund is only the most dramatic case in point here.
Subsequent U.S. military adventures were clearly meant to reestablish the nation’s symbolic, cosmological power—that is, to terrify and overawe (it didn’t really matter whom)
chinese empire – … adopted a peculiar sort of tribute system.. in exchange for recognition of the chinese emperor as world sovereign, they have been willing to shower their client states with gifts…
money has no essence. It’s not “really” anything; therefore, its nature has always been and presumably always will be a matter of political contention
.. end of ww2 – a version of the chinese client state ness:
To put it crudely: the white working class of the North Atlantic countries, from the United States to West Germany, were offered a deal. If they agreed to set aside any fantasies of fundamentally changing the nature of the system, then they would be allowed to keep their unions, enjoy a wide variety of social benefits (pensions, vacations, health care …), and, perhaps most important, through generously funded and ever-expanding public educational institutions, know that their children had a reasonable chance of leaving the working class entirely.
in 1980, U.S. federal usury laws, which had previously limited interest to between 7 and 10 percent, were eliminated by act of Congress. Just as the United States had managed to largely get rid of the problem of political corruption by making the bribery of legislators effectively legal (it was redefined as “lobbying”), so the problem of loan-sharking was brushed aside by making real interest rates of 25 percent, 50 percent, or even in some cases (for instance, for payday loans) up to 6,000 percent annually, the sort of numbers that would once have made the mafia blush, perfectly legal—and therefore, enforceable no longer by just hired goons and the sort of people who place mutilated animals on their victims’ doorsteps, but by judges, lawyers, bailiffs, and police.
capitalism cannot really operate in a world where people believe it will be around forever..
we’ve hit the wall in our collective imagination.
Finance capital became the buying and selling of chunks of that future, and economic freedom, for most of us, was reduced to the right to buy a small piece of one’s own permanent subordination.
over last 5000 yrs.. at least 2 occasions when major dramatic moral and financial innovations have emerged from the country we now refer to as iraq… odd to most.. since most americans are used to thinking of iraqis either as victims or fanatics (this is how occupying powers always think about the people they occupy)
The one thing we can be confident of is that history is not over, and that wherever the most exciting new ideas of the next century come from, it will almost certainly be from someplace we don’t expect.
The main reason that we’re unable to notice, I think, is that the legacy of violence has twisted everything around us. It’s not just that war, conquest, and slavery played such a central role in converting human economies into market ones; there is literally no institution in our society that has not been to some degree affected.
Calculation demands equivalence. And such equivalence—especially when it involves equivalence between human beings (and it always seems to start that way, because at first, human beings are always the ultimate values)—only seems to occur when people have been forcibly severed from their contexts, so much so that they can be treated as identical to something else,
Any system that reduces the world to numbers can only be held in place by weapons, whether these are swords and clubs, or, nowadays, “smart bombs” from unmanned drones.
such is the state of the conversation in mainstream literature.. it has consistently encouraged us to ask the wrong questions.
real question – how to ratchet things down a bit.. toward a society where people can live more by working less.
..all these things are human arrangements and that if democracy is to mean anything, it is the ability to all agree to arrange things in a different way.
indeed – a nother way. dependent upon alive people. every day. as the day.
debt – perversion of a promise.. a promise corrupted by both math and violence
when one is in the middle of dramatic historical events that seem to represent some kind of break, the most important thing one has to do is to get a sense of the larger rhythmic structure.
deep simple open enough
Even though he never conducted fieldwork and never even wrote a proper book (he died surrounded by unfinished writing projects), the stream of occasional essays that he did produce was incredibly influential—just about every one of them has inspired a whole body of subsequent literature. Mauss had an extraordinary knack for asking the most interesting questions. (wrote the gift)
.. if we are going to create a world that does not threaten to wipe out humanity every generation or so, this is exactly the scale on which we’re going to have to start reimagining things. And in the process, many of our most cherished assumptions—about the value of work, for instance, or the virtue of paying debts—are likely to be stood on their heads.
systemic – making most of today’s tech irrelevant..
from notes (at end of book) – weaving back & forth
from ch 3
According to the Populist reading, the Wicked Witches of the East and West represent the East and West Coast bankers (promoters of and benefactors from the tight money supply), the Scarecrow represented the farmers (who didn’t have the brains to avoid the debt trap), the Tin Woodsman was the industrial proletariat (who didn’t have the heart to act in solidarity with the farmers), the Cowardly Lion represented the political class (who didn’t have the courage to intervene).
Anthropologists have been complaining about the Myth of Barter for almost a century. Occasionally, economists point out with slight exasperation that there’s a fairly simple reason why they’re still telling the same story despite all the evidence against it: anthropologists have never come up with a better one.21 This is an understandable objection, but there’s a simple answer to it. The reasons why anthropologists haven’t been able to come up with a simple, compelling story for the origins of money is because there’s no reason to believe there could be one. Money was no more ever “invented” than music or mathematics or jewelry. What we call “money” isn’t a “thing” at all; it’s a way of comparing things mathematically, as proportions:
L. Frank Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which appeared in 1900, is often held to be a parable for the Populist campaign of William Jennings Bryan, who twice ran for president on the Free Silver platform—vowing to replace the gold standard with a bimetallic system that would allow the free creation of silver money alongside gold.
“Oz” is of course the standard abbreviation for “
From roughly 1933 to 1979, every major capitalist government reversed course and adopted some version of Keynesianism. Keynesian orthodoxy started from the assumption that capitalist markets would not really work unless capitalist governments were willing effectively to play nanny: most famously, by engaging in massive deficit “pump-priming” during downturns.
They only became ruby slippers in the movie.
..the book developed this reputation at some point, so it’s really just a question of whether Baum created the myth or others did.
making me wonder why i like foreign money so much.. esp since.. when in the place.. fear of rip off ness.
also.. (from ch 3 – esp footnote 35 – where in brahman ism and et al.. the ultimate payment in debt – suicide – so you can start again).. so debt=suicide. and equation. wondering about love for solving equations.. equaling up the sides.. and thinking about perhaps.. equity being us approaching the limit of ginormously small ness. ie: 7 billion ish people = 7 billionish goes everyday .. ish. ness.
from ch 5
in anthropology – first to propose reciprocity as a universal principle – Richard Thurnwald 1916.. but made famous by Malinowski 1922
The author then proceeds to explore the nature of our sense of economic morality by comparing the behavior of caged apes with middle-class Canadian children so as to argue that all human relations are indeed either exchange or forcible appropriation (ibid:49). Despite the brilliance of many of its arguments, the result is a rather sad testimony to how difficult it is for the scions of the North Atlantic professional classes not to see their own characteristic ways of imagining the world as simple human nature.
science of people ness
on Marx only using slogan… for the principle he imagined could apply on the level of society as a whole once technology had reached the point of guarenteeing absolute material abundance… – peter kropotkin’s mutual aid
marshal sahlins 1972 – generalized reciprocity.. everything balances out freely. marcel mauss.. 1947 – alternating reciprocity.. ie: we repay parents by having children
The obvious question is: If we are all ordinarily moving back and forth between completely different systems of moral accounting, why hasn’t anybody noticed this? Why, instead, do we continually feel the need to reframe everything in terms of reciprocity? Here we must return to the fact that reciprocity is our main way of imagining justice
from ch 6:
their ultimate value is individualism, and since each individual is valuable above all for the degree to which he or she is unique, there can be no basis for saying that anyone is intrinsically superior to anybody else. One can have the same effect without any doctrine of “Western individualism” at all. The entire concept of “individualism” needs to be seriously rethought.
from ch 7
attempts to justify slavery don’t focus on the institution but on some inferiority of those enslaved
from ch 9
interesting to note – great trading nations didn’t produce much in terms of art and philosophy
great deal of enlightenment thought traces back to islamic philosophy
on monasteries ending up with land from defaulting debtors.. fitting with Michel – writing pope for empty monasteries for maker spaces.. et al
“these are the ways in which we re-articulate, symbolically, how we want that to look & who is allowed in” @qui_oui https://t.co/7EAI1lQwd2
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/bonstewart/status/606091822209892352