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.
notes/highlights (and add ons from re re reading):
raj patel: ‘graeber helps us reset our everyday ideas by exploring history and other civilizations, then boomeranging back to render our own world strange, and more open to change’
paul mason: ..’the destruction of societies based on ‘webs of mutual commitment’.. and the constantly implied threats of physical violence that lies behind all social relation s based on money’
sukhev sandhu: ‘debt may assume for the occupy movement the theoretical importance that hardt and negri’s empire did for anti globalisation campaigners during past decade.. his 500 pg study argues that although debt has always been the basis of human society, it is not the same thing as money’
marshall sahlins: ‘if anthropology consists of making the apparently wild thoughts of others logically compelling in own cultural settings and intellectually revealing of human conditions, then graeber is the consummate anthropologist.. not only does he accomplish this profound feat, he redoubles it by the critical task – now more urgent than ever – of making the possibilities of other people’s worlds the basis for understanding our own’
cory doctorow: ‘an absolutely indispensable and enormous treatise of the history of money and its relationship to inequality in society’
aaron bady: ‘a dazzlingly syncretic coherent and multi faceted effort to re narrate virtually the entirely of human history.. a deconstruction of the terms thru which we have learned to think about what human civ , history, and society are and are supposed to be (which is to say, the language we use to make claims upon it) ..’
the l magazine: ‘the world of borrowing needs a little demystification.. graeber’s debt is a good start’
ch 1: on the experience of moral confusion
on dinner guest – attorney – not knowing what imf was.. so i offered that imf basically acted as world’ debt enforcers.. basically guys who come to break your legs.. ie: collapse of most basic supports for some of poorest and most vulnerable people on earth.. i told her 30 yrs o money flowing form poorest countries to riches was quite enough.. but.. she objected.. as if this were self evident.. ‘they’d borrows the money.. surely one has to pay ones’ debts…
where to start?.. literally taking food from hungry children.. or.. how many poor countries had actually already paid back what they borrowed 3-4x now.. but thru miracle of compound interest.. still hasn’t made a dent in principal..
but there was a *more basic problem: the very assumption that debts have to be repaid.. remarkable thing about the statement ‘one has to pay one’s debts’ is that even according to standard econ theory, it isn’t true.. a lender is supposed to accept a certain degree of risk.. if a bank were guaranteed to get its money back, pus interest, no matter what it did, the whole system wouldn’t work..
basically, that’s the situation imf created on global level.. ie: how you could have all those banks willing to fork over billions to a bunch of obvious crooks in first place..
that phrase kept resonating in my head.. ‘surely one has to pay one’s debts’.. the reason it’s so powerful is that it’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.
accepting one’s responsibilities.. fulfilling one’s obligations to others.. it was that very apparent self evidence that made the statement so insidious.. this was kind of line that could make terrible things appear utterly bland and unremarkable.. this may sound strong.. but it’s hard not to feel strongly about such matters *once you’ve witnessed the effects..
*quiet enough to see ness
one might think it would be hard to make a case that the loss of 10 thousand human lives is really justified in order to ensure that citibank wouldn’t have to cut its losses on one irresponsible loan that wasn’t particularly important to its balance sheet anyway.. but here was perfectly decent woman.. one who worked for a charitable org no less.. who took it as self evident that it was.. after all.. they owed the money and surely one has to pay one’s debts
why debt.. what makes the concept so strangely powerful?
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.
structural violence et al
debt not just about victor’s justice; it can also be way of punishing winners who weren’t supposed to win ie: haiti.. first poor country to be place in permanent debt peonage.. founded by former plantation slaves who had the temerity not only to rise up in rebellion.. but to defeat napoleon’s aries sent to return them to bondage.. france immediately insisted that the new republic owed it 150 million francs in damages for the expropriate plantations, as well as expenses of outfitting the failed military expedition.. .. and all other nations, including us, agreed to impose an embargo until it was paid.. the sum was intentionally impossibe.. equiv to about 18 billion dollars.. and the resultant embargo ensure that the name ‘haiti’ has been a synonym for debt, poverty, and human misery ever since..
sometimes though, debt seems to mean very opposite.. starting in 80s.. the us which insisted on strict terms of repayment of third world debt.. itself accrued debs that easily dwarfed those of entire third world combined.. mainly fueled by military spending.. too form of treasury bonds.. makes it (so countries) are beholden to us interests (esp military) rather than other way around..
thru out history.. certain debt/debtor have always been treated differently .. aristocratic inmates (1720s) .. brief stay as something of a fashion statement.. wine/dined by liveried servants and allowed reg visits from prostitutes.. on ‘common side’ impoverished debtors were shackled together in tiny cells.. ‘covered w filth and vermin.. and suffered to die w/o pity, of hunger and jail fever’
in a way you can see current world econ arrangements as a much larger version of same thing.. but there’s something more fundamental going on here too.. what is diff between gangster pulling out gun and demanding 1000 dollars in protection money and same gangster demanding 1000 dollars in loan.. in most ways.. no diff.. but in certain ways.. there is.. .. as in case of us debt to korea or japan.. were the balance of power at any point to shift.. were america to lose its military supremacy.. were the gangster to lose his henchmen.. that ‘loan’ might start being treated very differently.. might become genuine liability.. but the crucial element would still seem to be the gun
in final anal.. man w gun doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to do.. but in order to run even a regime based on violence effectively, one needs to establish some kind of set of rules.. the rules can be completely arbitrary.. in a way.. does’t even matter what they are.. or at least doesn’t matter at first.. the problem is.. the moment one starts framing things in terms of debt.. people will inevitably start asking who really owes what to whom..
arguments about debt have been going on for at least 5000 yrs.. for most of human history.. at least history of states and empires.. most human being shave been told they are debtors.. has caused continual outrage and resentment.. tell people they are inferior, they are unlikely to be please, but surprisingly rarely leads to armed revolt.. tell people they are potential equals who have failed and that therefore even what they do have they do not deserve.. you are much more likely to inspire rage..
for 1000s yrs.. struggle between rich/poor has largely taken form of conflicts between creditors/debtors.. of arguments about rights/wrongs of interest payments, debt peonage, amnesty, repossession restitution, seizing of vineyards/sheep, selling of children into slavery.. by same token.. for last 5000 yrs.. popular insurrections have begun same way: w ritual destruction of debt record – tablets, papyri, ledgers..
moses finley: ‘all revolutionary movements had a single program: ‘cancel debts and redistribute the land”
our tendency to overlook his is all the more peculiar when you consider how much of our contemp moral/religious language originally emerged directly from these very conflicts.. terms like ‘reckoning/redemption’.. taken directly from language of ancient finance.. in a large sense.. same can be said of ‘guilt/freedom/forgiveness/sin’
Arguments about who really owes what to whom have played a central role in shaping our basic vocabulary of right and wrong.
crazy convo if we see us as one interconnected body..
the fact that so much of this language did take shape in arguments about debt has left the concept strangely incoherent.. to argue w a king one has to use the king’s language..
look at history of debt.. profound moral confusion.. most everywhere one finds majority of human beings hold simultaneously that 1\ paying back money one has borrowed is a simple matter of morality and 2\ anyone in habit of lending money is evil
poor debtors were expected to pay back interest in form of work.. most significant life expenses were weddings and funerals..
often when borrowed money for marriage.. bride would be security.. she’d repot to lender’s household after wedding night, spend few months there as his concubine.. then be sent to some nearby timber camp.. where she’s spend next year or two working as a prostitute to pay off her father’s debt.. once accounts settle.. she’d return to her husband and begin her married life.. this seems shocking.. but galey does not report (1970s himalayas) any widespread feeling of injustice.. just the way things worked..
in world lit almost impossible to find a single sympathetic rep of a professional moneylender.. which means one who charges interest.. i’m not sure there is another profession (executioners?) w such a consistently bad image.. unlike executioners, usurers often rank among richest and most powerful in communities.. though it evokes bad images.. selling of souls et al.. devil as evil accountant w books/ledgers
historically only two ways for lender to wriggle out.. 1\ shunt responsibility to 3rd party (ie: of doing it to jews).. or 2\ insist the borrower is even worse..
on one hand.. insofar as all human relations involve debt.. they are all morally compromised.. both parties probably already guilty of something just by entering into the relationship.. on other hand.. when say someone acts like they ‘don’t owe anything to anybody’ we’re hardly describing that person as a paragon of virtual.. morality consists largely of fulfilling our obligations to others.. and w have a stubborn tendency to imagine those obligations as debts..
the moment one asks ‘who really owes what to whom?.. one has begun to adopt the creditor’s language.. the language of a business deal
10-day-care-center\ness et al
central question of this book: What, precisely, does it mean to say that our sense of morality and justice is reduced to the language of a business deal?
esp.. but really any language.. language as control/enclosure et al
what does it mean when we reduce moral *obligations to debts? what changes when the one turns into the other? and how do we speak about them when our language has been so shaped by the market?
*actually.. when reduce human being ness to obligation ness.. huge red flag
on one level.. diff between obligation and debt is simple and obvious: a debt is the obligation to pay a certain sum of money.. as a result, a debt, unlike any other form of obligation, can be precisely quantified.. this allows debts to become simple, cold and impersonal.. which in turn allows them to be transferable.. one does not need to calculate the human effects; one need only calc balances, penalities, rates of interest..
from this perspective.. the crucial factor: 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. the factor of violence, which i have been emphasizing up till now may appear secondary
when one looks a little closer, one discovers that these two elements—the violence and the quantification—are intimately linked.. t in fact almost impossible to find one w/o the other
‘when one looks a little closer, one discovers that these two elements—the violence and the quantification—are intimately linked‘
ginormous – huge – ginormous – huge
the way violence, or the threat of violence, turns human relations into mathematics… it is the ultimate source of the moral confusion that seems to float around everything surrounding the topic of *debt.. the resulting dilemmas appear to be as old as **civilization itself.. t
**and yeah.. civilization ness is based on the math/violence
we can observe the process in the very earliest records form ancient mesopotamia.. reappears in endless forms throughout recorded history.. and still lies underneath the essential fabric of our institutions today – state and market – our most basic conceptions of the nature of freedom, morality, sociality – all of which have been *shaped by a history of war, contest, and slavery in ways we’re no longer capable of even perceiving because we can no longer imagine things any other way.. t
black science of people/whales law – we have no idea what legit free people are like..
we keep missing what is the essence of human being – and today we can org ourselves around that..
*and measuring things
reason people were ready (just talked about 2008 crash) for such a convo was that the story everyone had been told for the last decade or so had just been revealed to be a colossal lie (selling poor fams mortgages crafted as to make eventual default inevitable.. elab scams)
if we listen deep enough.. all history is non legit..
on people assuming .. we would at least restart a broader convo about the nature of debt and credit institutions.. and not just a convo.. it seems most americans were open to radical solutions
since colonial days.. americans have been the pop least sympathetic to debtors.. odd.. since america was settled largely by absconding debtors.. but idea that morality is matter o paying one’s debts runs deeper than almost any other
the us govt effectively put a 3 trillion dollar band aid over the problem and changed nothing (us one of last countries to adopt law of bankruptcy)
the usual impulse is to imagine everything around us as absolutely new.. nowhere is this so true as w money.. ie: virtual money.. the assumption that we were in such uncharted territory of course, was one of the things that made it so easy for the likes of goldman sachs and aig to convince people that no one could possibly understand their dazzling new financial instruments..
there’s nothing new about virtual money. Actually, this was the original form of money.
new age of credit money ware in seems to have started precisely backwards.. ti began w the creation of global institutions like the imf designed to protect not debtors, but creditors..
this book is history of debt.. but also used that history as way to ask fundamental questions about what human beings and human society are or could be like – what we actually do owe each other, what it even *means to as that question..
*means asking wrong question et al
the one thing that all these misconceptions have in common, we will find, is that they tend to reduce all human relations to exchange.
marsh exchange law et al
this leads to another question.. if not exchange.. then what?
(will address in ch 5) – origins of money to demo how the very principle of exchange emerged largely as an effect of violence.. t
‘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..t
part of tweet thread/response from @BawketyBawk when i shared this.. ‘This seems like a miss-reading of her work. “the one thing that all these misconceptions have in common, we will find, is that they tend to reduce all human relations to exchange” which is dumb. Slavery isn’t reduced to exchange, debt by its nature is non-exhange, recompense...’
he’s referring to marsh.. but what caught me was ‘slavery/debt isn’t reduced to exchange’ but i think david is ( and i think too) that both slavery and debt are an exchange.. just a very unbalanced one.. ie: work to pay back (exchange) money they (masters/lenders have determined) you owe..?
489 (ch 2 starts)
ch 2: the myth of barter
h l mencken: ‘for every subtle and complicated question, there is a perfectly simple and straightforward answer, which is wrong’
what is the diff between a mere obligation .. a sense that one ought to behave in a certain way, or even that one owes something someone, and a debt, properly speaking? the answer is simple: money..
diff between debt and obligation is that a debt can be precisely quantified.. this requires money.. not only is it money that makes debt possible: money and debt appear on the scene at exactly the same time
some of he very first written docs that have come down to us are mesopotamian tables recording credits and debits, rations issued by temples, money owed for rent of temple lands.. value…
some of earlier works of moral philosophy in turn are reflection on what it means to imagine morality as debt – that is in terms of money
this is necessarily a very diff history of money than we are used to .. when economists speak of the origins of money, for ie, debt is always something of an after thought.. first comes barter, then money; credit only develops later
barter then money then debt/credit – wrong
even if consults books on history of money in say france, india, or china, what one generally gets is a history of coinage, w barely any discussion of credit arrangements at all.. for almost a century, anthropologists like me have been pointing out that there is something very wrong w this picture.. the standard econ history version has little to do w anything we observe when we examine how econ life is actually conducted, in real communities and marketplaces almost anywhere – where one is much more likely to discover everyone is in debt to everyone else in a dozen diff ways, and that most transactions take place w/o the use of currency
why the discrepancy.. some of it is just the nature of the evidence: coins are preserved in archeological record; credit arrangements usually are not.. still the problem runs deeper.. the existence of credit/debt has always been something of a scandal for economists, since it’s almost impossible to pretend that those lending/borrowing money are acting on purely ‘economic’ motivation.. before we can reconstruct real history of money.. we need to understand what’s worn w the conventional account
‘a barter system requires a double coincidence of whats fro trade to rake place.. that is, to effect a trade, i need not only have to find someone who has what i want but that person must also want what i have’
this is quote from econ he’s disagreeing with
still quoting from econ ‘some agreed upon medium of exchange (or means of payment) neatly eliminates the double coincidence of wants problem.. ‘ it’s important to emphasize that this is not presented as something that actually happened, but as a purely imaginary exercise..
just about every econ textbook employed to say sets out the problem the same way.. historically, they note, we know that there was a time when there was no money.. what must it have been like? let us imagine an econ something like today’s, except no money.. that would have been decidedly inconvenient.. surely people have invented money for sake of efficiency.. the story of money for economists always begins w a fantasy world of barter..
‘money provides a way to make multilateral exchange much simpler’ – textbook
there is a simple reason why everyone who writes an econ textbook feels they have to tell us the same story.. for economists.. it is in a very real sense the most important story ever told .. it was by telling it, in the significant year of 1776 that adam smith.. effectively brought the discipline of econ into being.. he didn’t make up the story entirely.. in 330 bc aristotle was speculating along vaguely similar lines
certainly no one reported discovering a land of barter.. most 16-17th cent travelers in west indies or africa assumed that all societies should necessarily have their own forms of money.. since all societies had govts and all govts issued money.. adam smith.. on the other hand.. was determine to overturn the conventional wisdom of his day.. above all he objected to notion that money was creation of govt.. intellectual heir to john locke.. who had argued that govt begins in need to protect private property.. smith expanded.. insisting that property, money and markets not only existed before political institutions but were the very foundation of human society..it followed that if govt should play any role in monetary affairs.. would be limited to guaranteeing soundness of the currency.. that way (smith) could insist that econ is itself a field of human inquiry w own principles/laws.. as distinct from ethics or politics
smith’s argument worth laying out in detail because it is, as ai say, the great founding myth of the discipline of econ
what, he begins, is the basis of econ life, properly speaking? it is ‘a certain propensity in human nature.. the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another’ animals don’t do this.. but humans.. if left to won devices, will inevitably begin swapping and comparing things.. this is just what humans do..
yeah.. maybe whales.. but legit free people:
(still smith thinking): even logic and convo are really just forms of trading .. and as in all things, humans will always try to seek own best advantage, to seek the greatest profit they can from the exchange.. it is this drive to exchange in turn.. which creates that division of labor responsible for all human achievement and civilization..
marsh exchange law (twitter thread – noted p 478)
it’s only once we have expert arrow-makers, wigwam makers, and so on that people start realizing there’s a problem.. notice how, as in so many ie’s.. we have a tendency to slip from imaginary savages to small town shopkeepers..
so everyone will inevitably start stockpiling something they figure that everyone else is likely to want. this has a paradoxical effect, because at a certain point, rather than making that commodity less valuable (since everyone already has some) it becomes more valuable (because it becomes, effectively, currency).. then onto ie’s of salt, tobacco, et al as currencies
makes me think of gift\ness as assuming we know what others want.. so too with the idea of stockpiling..
testart storage law et al
tellingly.. this (smith and econ book) story played a crucial role not only in founding the discipline of econ.. but in the very idea that here was something called ‘the economy’ which operated by its own rules, separate from moral or political life.. that economists could take as their field of study.. ‘the economy’ is where we indulge in our natural propensity to truck and barter.. we are still trucking and bartering.. we always will be.. money is simply the most efficient means (again .. to clarify.. smith’s thinking)
economists like menger and jevons later improved on details of story, most of all by adding various mathematical equations to demo that a random assortment of people w random desire could, in theory produce not only a single commodity to use as money but a uniform price system.. in the process, they also substituted all sorts of impressive technical vocab
total lit & num as colonialism et al
the crucial thing, though, is that by now, this story has become *simple common sense for most people.. we teach it to children in schoolbooks and museums.. everybody knows it.. ‘once upon a time, there was barter, it was difficult. so people invented money. then came the development of banking and credit’..
it all form s a perfectly simple, straightforward progression a process increasing sophistication and abstraction that has carried humanity, logically and inexorably (impossible to stop) from the stone age exchange of mastodon tusks to stock markets, hedge funds, and securitized derivatives..
the story then, has become the founding myth of our system of econ relations
the problem is there’s no evidence that it ever happened, and an enormous amount of evidence suggesting that it did not
.. and made no use of actual descriptions of indian life that made it clear that smith had simply made this up
now, all this hardly means that barter does not exit.. or even that it’s never practiced by the sort of people smith would refer to as ‘savages’.. it just means that it’s almost never employed, as smith imagined, between fellow villagers.. ordinarily, it takes place between strangers, even enemies..
barter, then for all the festive elements, was carried out between people who might otherwise be enemies and hovered about an inch away from outright warfare..
what follows is from a description of a dzamalag held in 1940s, as observed by an anthropologist named ronald bernt.. includes essentially prostituting wives for men’s means of exchange et al)
it’s all made possible by laying down an initial mantle of sociability in the form of shared pleasures, music, and dance.. the usual base of conviviality on which trade must always be built.. then comes the actual trading, where both sides make a great display of the latent hostility that necessarily exists in any exchange of material goods between strangers – where neither party has no particular reason not to take advantage of the other – by playful mock aggression
recall the language of econ textbooks: ‘imagine a society w/o money.. imagine a barter econ’.. one thing these ie’s make abundantly clear is just how limited the imaginative powers of most economists turn out to be.. why? the simplest answer would be: for there to eve be a discipline called ‘econ’ .. individuals seek most advantageous arrangement for exchange.. it must assume that the exchange of such goods need have nothing to do w war, passion, adventure, mystery, sex or death.. economics assumes a division between diff spheres of human behavior that, among people like gunwinngu and nambikwara, simple does not exist.. these divisions in turn are made possible by very specific institutional arrangements – ie: lawyers, prisons, police – to ensure that even people who don’t like each other .. but are simply interested in getting hands on as much of others’ possessions as possible.. will nonetheless refrain from the most obvious expedient (theft)..
this in turn allows us to assume life is neatly divided between marketplace and sphere of consumption (music, feasts,et al)
in other words.. 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
from these ie’s.. clear why there are no societies based on barter.. such a society could only be one in which everybody was an inch away for everybody else’s throat; hovering there ready.. but never striking.. forever.. barter is what you do with those to whom you are not bound by ties of hospitality (or kinship, or much of anything else)
unscrupulous motives seem inherent to very nature of barter.. ‘truck and barter’… literally meant ‘to trick, bamboozle, or rip off’.. swapping on thing for another while trying to get best deal.. w people one doesn’t care about or doesn’t expect to see again
wouldn’t happen (no exchange ness would happen) if we understood our interconnectedness.. ie: we’d care about everyone et al).. and that understanding would help us to grok enough ness.. (so wouldn’t be seeking to hoard more than we need)
on the other hand, if one cares enough about someone.. one will inevitably also care aobu her enough to take her individual needs, desires, and situation into account.. even if you do swap one thing for another.. you are likely to frame the matter as a gift..
swap = tit for tat ness et al
if a friend praises a bracelet/bag, you are normally expected to say ‘take it’ but if you are really determined to hold on to it.. you can always say ‘yes isn’t it beautiful.. it was a gift’
it doesn’t matter whether joshua is sincere in saying this (says doesn’t want anything in return) .. by doing so, he thereby registers a credit.. henry owes him one.. how might henry pay joshua back? ther eare endless possiblities..
problem of double coincidence of wants so endlessly invoked in econ textbooks, simply disappear.. might not have (appropriate exchange) now .. but over time will
this in turn means that the need to stockpile commonly acceptable items in way smith suggested disappears as well.. w it goes need to develop currency.. as w so many actual small communities.. everyone simply keeps track of who owes what to whom
imagine a world where we didn’t spend out days/energies keeping track
just one major conceptual problem here.. henry ‘owes joshua one’.. one what? how do you quantify a favor?.. there must be some way to establish that x is roughly equiv to y .. doesn’t this imply that something like money, at least in the sense of a unit of account by which one can compare the value of diff objects already has to exist?
graeber values law et al
good reason to believe that barter is not a particularly ancient phenom at all.. but has only really become widespread in modern times.. often because ran out of money for some reason.. ie: prisons.. inmates use cigarettes as currency.. people who grew up using money and now have to make do w/o.. exactly the situation ‘imagine’ by the economics textbooks w which i began..
the more frequent solution is to adopt some sort of credit system.. people continued keeping accounts in the old imperial currency, even if they were no longer using coins
huge.. virtual money/tokens.. not new.. not free
easy to see that ‘money’ in this sense is in no way the product of commercial transactions.. it was actually created by Bs in order to keep track of resources and move things back and forth between depts..
by early 20th cent all pieces in place to completely rewrite the history of money.. mitchell-innes – 1914 .. suggested that what was really needed was history of debt
our standard account of monetary history is precisely backwards.. did not begin w barter, then money, then credit.. what we now call 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.. (summary of ch 3)
curious thing.. new history never written.. not that they refuted mitchel-innes.. just ignored him.. people keep saying ‘reverted to barter’ as if meaning of his phrase is self evident.. even though.. no one actually know what it means..
905 (ch 3 starts)
ch 3: primordial debts
the answer seems to be that the myth of barter cannot go away because it is central to the entire discourse of econ
newton had rep’d god as a cosmic watchmaker.. who created physical machinery of universe in such a way that ti would operate for the ultimate benefit of humans.. and then let it run on its own
smith was trying to make a similar newtonian argument.. god/divine had arranged matters in such a way that our pursuit of self interest would nonetheless, given an *unfettered market, be guided ‘as if by an invisible hand’.. to promote the general welfare..
*doesn’t matter how unfettered.. if market.. fettered enough .. keep on killing us
people continue to argue about whether an unfettered free market really will produce the results that smith said it would.. but no one questions whether ‘the market’ naturally exists
yeah.. that.. it doesn’t.. it’s rna/cancerous
we simply assume that when valuable objects change hands.. it will normally be because two individuals have both decided they would gain a material advantage by swapping them.. interesting corollary.. as a result, economists see the very question of the presence/absence of money as not esp important.. since money is just a commodity, chosen to facil exchange
58 paul samuelson: ‘if we strip exchange down.. peel off obscuring layer of money.. boils down to barter.. .. swapping goods back and forth..’ call this the (climax) of econ as common sense.. money is unimportant
exchange/swap/barter/money.. all same thing/cancer.. so.. which came first.. irrelevant
econ’s ‘real econ’s are really vast barter systems.. the problem is that history shows that w/o money, such vast barter system don’t occur.. ‘revert to barter’ is just abandoning use of cash.. money made us able to swamp.. but also clear tha mere existence of money isn’t enough to allow us to see world this way..
missing element is in fact exactly thing smith was attempt to downplay: the role of govt policy
credit theorist insisted that money is not a comoddity but an accounting tol.. not a ‘thing’ at all.. can no more touch a dollar than can tougch an horu or cubic cent.. units of currency are merely abstract units of measurement .. and historicall.. such abstract systems of accoutningemerged long befreo use of any particual roken of exchagne..
problem is not ‘what tool/token of exchange/measure’.. but why assume measuring/accounting/exchange ness in first place
if money is just a yardstick.. what then does it measure.. the answer was simple: debt. a coin is, effectively, an iou
money is born, because there’s no logical end to it (the passing around of iou’s)
one only accepts it (a coin) because one assumes other people will..
in this sense, the value of a unit of currency is not the measure of the value of an object, but the measure of one’s trust in other human beings..
yeah.. assuming (to me) a non legit defn of trust.. to me.. can’t measure it.. it’s all or nothing .. or it’s not trust.. it’s judgement or whatever
the difficulty in the chartalist position.. what it (banknotes) came to be called.. from latin charta or token .. is to establish why people would continue to trust a piece of pater.. .. maybe in small village.. but not in full blown currency system.. providing sufficient number of ious in med sized city.. would require millions of tokens..
gf knapp whose state theory of money 1905 – if money is simply a unit of measure it makes sense that emperors and kings should concern themselves w such matters
what matters is that there is a uniform system for measuring credits/debts, and that this system remains stable over time
what matters is that the cancer (of math and men) remain stable (assumed as natural) thru all of time
makes no diff whether pure silver, debased silver, leather tokens or dried cod.. provided the state is willing to accept it in payment of taxes.. whatever state was willing to accept became currency.. ie: ‘tally sticks’ to record debts.. aka: iou’s..
creditor kept half.. called ‘the stock’ (origin of ‘stock holder’) and debtor kept other.. called ‘the stub’ (origin of term ‘ticket stub’)
puzzling aspect of equation: the iou can operate as money only as long as henry never pays his debt.. in fact this is precisely the logic on which the bank of england – the first successful modern central bank – was originally founded.. (169)
in effect, to circulate or ‘monetize’ the newly created royal debt.. this was a great deal for bankers (got to charge king 8% interest and simultaneously charge interest on same money to clients who borrowed it).. but it only worked as long as original loan remained outstanding.. to this day.. this loan has never been paid back.. it cannot be.. if it ever were, the entire monetary system of great britain would cease to exist
on family in kingdom obliged to pay coins back.. turning one’s entire national econ into a vast machine for provisioning of solders.. since now every family, in order to ge coins.. must find way to contribute to gen effort to provide soldiers w things they want.. markets brought into existence as side effect.. very clear that markets did spring up around ancient armies.. most ancient rulers spent a great deal of time thinking about relation between mines, soldiers, taxes, and food.. concluded.. markets convenient for not just soldiers.. but all sorts of ways. since it meant officials no longer had to requisition everything they needed directly from the populace et al.. in other words.. despite dogged liberal assumption (from smith’s legacy)( that existence of states and markets are opposed.. historical record implies exactly opposite.. .. stateless societies tend also to be w/o markets..
the curious thing is that the mainstream economists often ended up actually working for govts and advising such govts to pursue policies mulch like .. tax policies designed to create markets where they had not existed before.. .. despite they were committed to smiths’ argument that markets develop spontaneously of own accord.. this was esp true in colonial world..
in other words .. in madagascar – gallieni did print money and then demand everyone give some back to him
most striking.. was language he used to describe this tax.. impot moralisateur.. the education al or moralizing tax.. in other words.. designed to teach natives the value of work.. as a result famrmers quicly fell hopelessly into debt.. easiest way to pay bakc debt was either to find some kind of cash crop to sell.. ie: coffee.. or send one’s children to work for wages in city/plnatations french colonists established.. something more than just squeezing cheap labor.. ie: need to make sure peasants had at least some money left over .. and to ensure they becaem accustomed to minor luxruies.. parasols, lipstick, cookies – available at chinesse shops
schooling the world ness
it was crucial that they develop new tastes, habits expectations.. lay foundation of a consumer demand.. keep madagascar forever tied to france..
most people not stupid.. malagsy understood exactly what conquerors were trying to do to them.. many were quite open in saying they saw selves as resisting a trap.. still, such defiance rarely lasts forever
such ie’s could be multiplied endlessly.. rather than discovering barter.. ended up using the very techniques that mainstream economics rejected to bring something liek the market into being..
in search of a myth.. anthropologists have been complaining about the myth of barter for almost a century.. reason telling same story.. never came up w a better one.. reason for that.. no reason to believe there could be one (compelling story for origins of money).. money was no more invented than music or maths ao jewelry.. what we call money isn’t a thing at all.. it’s a way of comparing things mathematically, as proportions: of saying one of x is equiv to 6 of y.. as such it is probably as old as *human thought..
rather.. as old as *whale thought
baum’s wizard of ox 1900.. as parable of populist campaign.. families such as dorothy’s who had been facing a massive wave of foreclosure during severe recession.. 1890s.. witches/bankers: promoters of scarcity; scarecrow/farmers: didn’t have brains to avoid debt trap; tin-man/proletariat: didn’t have heart to act in solidarity w farmers; lion/political-class: didn’t have courage to intervene.. oz is of course standard abbrev for ounce
few nowadays even remember what oz was originally supposed to be about.. german ideas of money as the embodiment of national will did not travel very well
from 1933 to 1979.. every major capitalist govt reversed course and adopted some version of keynesianism.. assumption that capitalist markets would not really work unless capitalist govts were willing effectively to play nanny: by engaging massive deficit ‘pump priming’ during down turns
nixon’s 71 decision to unpeg dollar from metals.. intro floating currency regimes has dominated world econ ever since.. keynes himself was much more ope to what he liked to call ‘alt tradition’ of credit and state theories than any economist of that stature (keynes arguably single most important econ thinking of 10th cent)
his conclusion was that the lunatic fringe was essentially right.. whatever its earliest origins.. for last 4000 yrs money has been effectively a creature of state.. individuals he observed, make contracts w one another.. they take out debts.. and they promise payment..
this does not mean that state necessarily creates money.. money is credit.. can be brought into being by private contractual agreements .. the state merely enforces the agreement and dictates legal terms..
keynes’ next dramatic assertion: that banks create money, and that there is no intrinsic limit to their ability to do so.
from banking system perspective as whole.. debits/credits will always cancel out..
implications were radical.. but keynes himself was not.. in end.. he was always careful to frame the problem in way that could be reintegrated into the mainstream economics of his day
huge.. radical ideas bound in old/cancerous systems
neither was keynes much of a myth maker.. as far as alt to myth of barter.. not from keynes.. he ultimately decided that the origins of money were not particularly important
exactly.. time/energy suck..
but (alt myth from) some contemp neo keynesians.. who were not afraid to follow some of his more radical suggestions as far as they would go
aka: not far enough
nowadays we all think we know the answer.. we pay our taxes so govt can provide us w service.. starts w security services – military.. by now of course.. govt provides all sorts of things
really? and did they ever?
all of this is said to go back to some sort of original ‘social contract’ that everyone somehow agreed on.. though no one really knows exactly when or by whom or why we should be bound by decisions of distant ancestors.. when don’t feel bound by decision of ancestors on anything else.. it all makes sense if you assume that markets come before govt.. but the whole argument totters quickly once you realize they don’t..
there is an alt explanation.. one created to be in keeping w state-credit theory approach (taxes et al)
core argument is that any attempt to separate monetary policy from social policy is ultimately wrong.. primordial debt theorist insist that they have always been same thing.. govts use taxes to create money.. able to do so because they have become guardians of the debt all citizens have to one another.. this debt is the essence of society itself.. exists long before money/markets.. money/market are simply ways of chopping pieces of it up..
at first.. the argument goes.. this sense of debt was expressed not thru the state but thru religion
to be under any sort of unfulfilled obligation, any unkept promise, to gods or to men, was to live in the shadow of death
the conclusion: that human existence is itself a form of debt (being born is a debt et al)
to live in debt is to be guilty, incomplete.. but completion can only mean annihilation
in face of eternity.. all debts become meaningless (one way to deal).. another way was to broaden the notion of debt so that all social responsibilities become debts of one sort.. which (via brahmanas) .. to sages we must repay thru study; to ancestors repay thru having children; to men/humanity thru hospitality to strangers
huge to supposed to ness
anyone then who lives a proper life is constantly paying back existential debts.. but at same time.. notion of debt slides back into simple essence of social obligation.. far less terrifying.. not least because social obligations always cut both ways.. after all.. once fathered children .. both debtor and creditor..
what primordial debt theorists have done is to propose that ideas encoded in these texts.. are not peculiar to certain tradition of early iron age.. but that they are essential to the very nature and history of *human thought
again.. to *whale thought
payment of debt which can never be settled on earth.. takes form of sacrifices.. make it possible to prolong life and achieve eternity by joining the gods.. and it is these (sovereign) powers that invented money as a means of settling debt..
author (bruno theret) making clever synthesis here.. human nature does not drive us to ‘truck and barter’.. rather, it ensures we are always creating symbols.. such as money itself.. this is how we com to see ourselves in a cosmos surrounded by invisible forces; as in debt to the universe
the ingenious move of course is to fold this back into the state theory of money – since by ‘sovereign power’ theret actually means ‘the state’..
this sets us on road to gradual realization that our debt to gods was always really a debt to society that made us what we are
that’s going the wrong direction for all of us.. perpetuating not us ness and tragedy of the non common ness
(geoffrey ingham): the primordial debt is that owed by the living to the continuity an durability of the society that secures their individual existence.. ‘ in this sense it is not just criminals who owe a ‘debt to society’.. we are all in a certain sense, guilty, even criminals
in all indo european languages.. words for debt are synonymous w those for sin/guilt.. links between sacred and realms of money ie: connection between money (german geld), indemnity or sacrifice (old english geild), tax (gothic gild) and, of course, guilt.
when people measure value of a ship or suit of armor, they always measure it in oxen.. yet.. never pay anything in oxen.. hard to escape conclusion that this was because an ox was what on offered the gods in sacrifice.. hence oxen rep’d absolute value
everywhere.. money seem to have emerged from the thing most appropriate for giving to the gods..
if kind has simply taken over guardianship of that primordial debt.. we all owe to society for having created us, this provides a very neat explanation of why the govt feels it has right to make us pay taxes.. taxes are just a measure of our debt to the society that made us.. but doesn’t explain how this life\debt can be converted into money.. which is by defn a means of measuring/comparing the value of diff things.. this is just as much a problem for credit theorist as for neoclassical economists..
but still not center of problem
if start from barter theory of money.. have to resolve problem of how/why one would come to select one commodity to measure others.. if you start from credit theory.. left w problem how to turn moral obligation into specific sum of money.. how mere sense of owing someone else a favor can eventually turn into system of accounting in which one is able to calculate exactly how many sheep/fish.. it would take to repay the debt.. or.. how we owe god to what we owe cousin or bartender..
one of puzzling things about all the theories is that they almost completely ignore evidence of anthropology.. anthropologists do have a great deal of knowledge of how econs w/in stateless societies actually worked – how they still work in places where states and markets have been unable to completely break up existing way s of doing things
yeah.. i don’t think that exists anywhere.. esp because.. has to be all of us to work
there are innumerable studies.. reason this lit tends to be ignored by economists is simple: ‘primitive currencies’ (cows, shells et al).. are only rarely used to buy/sill things.. and even then.. never primarily to buy/sell everyday items (chickens, eggs, shoes)..
these ie’s are not state/market/cancer less.. so just perpetuating tragedy of the non common ness
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 form murders or personal injury
huge.. on the *rearranging relations ness.. we’ve so successfully/ongoingly mucked that up
english word ‘to pay’ is originally derived fro a word for ‘to pacify, appease’ ‘as in .. to give something to express just how badly you feel about having just killed his brother
20th cent’s greatest numismatists (study/collection of coins/paper-currency/metal), phillip grierson.. who in 70s first suggested that money might first have emerged form early legal practice
soon followed by law codes by people living in territories never under roman rule (ireland, wales, nordics, russia).. even more revealing.. they could be remarkably creative.. both in what could be used as means of payment and precise breakdown of injuries/insults that required compensation
i’ve already remarked how difficult it is to imagine how a system of precise equivalences (healthy milk cow to 36 chickens) could arise from most forms of gift exchange.. ie: might see other as cheap.. but would have little occasion to come up w mathematical formula for precisely how cheap.. on other hand.. if pig just destroyed other’s garden.. led to fight.. one loses toe.. now family in front of village assembly.. this is precisely the context where people are most likely to become petty/legalistic and express outrage if feel have receive less than rightful due.. that means exact mathematical specificity.. (to) monetary value of every object likely to be found in homestead
premise makes a great deal of intuitive sense.. we do owe everything we are to others.. this is simply true
all of this we learned from other people.. most long dead.. if we were to imagine that we owe them a s a debt.. it could only be infinite.. the question is: does it really make sense to think of this as a debt? after all a debt is by defn something that we could at least imagine paying back..
it is strange enough to wish to be square w one’s parents – it rather implies that one does not wish to think of them as parens anymore..
10-day-care-center\ness.. rp ness.. both ways and sibling ways
would we really want to be square w all humanity? what would that even mean? and is this desire really a fundamental feature of all human thought
we’ve made it so.. and that’s turned on us.. so that we don’t trust others..
on even primordial debt theorists inventing a myth.. to dissuade myths et al
all of us.. ie: black science of people/whales law
or a canvas covered w hieroglyphics in an unknown language, on which we can project almost anything we want to
if the gods already have everything they want.. what exactly do humans have to bargain with? we’ve seen in the last ch how difficult it is to give gifts to kings.. w gods (let alone god) the problem is magnified infinitely.. exchange implies equality.. in dealing w cosmic forces .. this was simply assumed to be impossible from the start
marsh exchange law et al
the problem here is that in the ancient world free citizens didn’t usually pay taxes.. (on notion that debts to gods appropriated by state)
yeah.. deeper problem.. legit free people don’t use/have/desire/need money
for a very long time roman citizens not only paid no taxes but had a right to a share of tribute levied on others, in form of the dole – the ‘bread’ part of the famous ‘bread and circuses’
in other words.. benjamin franklin was wrong when he said that in this world nothing is certain except death and taxes.. very hard to reconcile w any theory that claims states were first conceived as guardians of some sort of cosmic primordial debt..
it’s curious that primordial debt theorist never have much to say about sumer or babylonia.. despite the fact that mesopotamia is where the practice of loaning money at interest was first invented.. and that it was also home of world’s first states..
interest was just a way for the temples to take their share of resulting profits.. however.. once established.. the principle seems to have quickly spread.. common practice.. for officials/wealthy-merchants.. to advance loans to peasants who were in financial trouble on collateral and begin to appropriate their possession if they were unable to pay.. grain.. sheep.. furniture.. fields.. houses.. family members.. even the borrower himself..
effects were such that they often threatened to rip society apart.. ie: if bad harvest .. led to families broken up.. lands abandoned.. as indebted farmers fled to jon semi nomadic bands on desert fringes of urban civ.. face w potential for complete social breakdown.. sumerian/babylonian kings periodically announced general amnesties: ‘clean slates’ as michael hudson refers to them.. outstanding debt null/void.. lands returned .. families reunited.. before long.. became more or less a regular habit for kings to make such a declaration on first assuming power and many were forced to repeat it periodically over the course of their reigns..
in sumer, these were called ‘declarations of freedom’ and it is significant that the Sumerian word amargi, the first recorded word for “freedom” in any known human language, literally means “return to mother” since this is what freed debt peons were finally allowed to do
michael hudson argues that meso kings were only in position to do this because of their cosmic pretensions: in taking power, saw selves as literally recreating human society.. and so were in positions to wipe slate clean of all previous moral obligations.. still this is about as far from what primordial debt theorist had in mind as one could possibly imagine
but what we need.. not from a king/president/whatever.. we just need a legit re\set
probably biggest problem in this whole body of lit… is the initial assumption: that we begin with an infinite debt to something called “society.” – ie: what is society.
it’s this debt to society that we project onto the gods.. same debt that then gets take up by kings/govts
what makes the concept of society so deceptive is that we assume the world is org’d into a series of compact modular units called ‘societies’ and that all people know which one they’re in .. historically.. this is very rarely the case
doesn’t even matter if it were.. all of history still like whales’ history.. so .. not natural.. but yeah .. this labeling/grouping ness is huge part of the cancer
historically, kingdoms and empires have rarely been most important reference points in people’s lives.. for many people.. not at all clear whose govt they were actually in.. even until quite recently, many were not sure what country they were citizens or why it should matter
huge – it shouldn’t
nationality: human ness
however.. if we are born w an infinite debt to all those people who made our existence possible.. but there is no natural unit called ‘society’ then who or what exactly do we really owe it so? everyone? everything? some people/things more than others? and how do we pay a debt to something so diffuse? or perhaps more to the point, who exactly can claim the authority to tell us how we can repay it .. and on what grounds?.. a moral question that no one has really ever been able to answer any better before or since..
so .. let it go – the obligation ness et al
intellectual classes – greece/china 500-400 bc – saying .. owe our existence above all to: universe/nature – repaid thru ritual; those who have created knowledge – repaid thru learning; parents – repaid by becoming ancestors; humanity – repaid by generosity to strangers.. basic communist ground of sociality that makes human relations and hence life.. possible..
set out this way thought, the argument begins to undermine its very premise.. these are nothing like commercial debts.. ie: repay parents by having kids.. but don’t repay creditors if lend cash to someone else..
myself, i wonder: couldn’t that really be the point? perhaps what the authors of brahmanas were really demo ing was that, in final anal, our relation w the cosmos is ultimately nothing like a commercial transaction.. nor could it be.. that’s because commercial transactions imply both equality and separation.. these ie’s are all about overcoming separation: you are free from debt to ancestors when you become an ancestor; free from debt to sages when you become a sage.. free from debt to humanity when you act w humanity
marsh exchange law et al
one could in fact interpret this list as a subtle way of saying that
only way of ‘freeing oneself’ from the debt was not literally repaying debts.. but rather showing that these debts do not exist .. because one is not separate to begin with.. t
and hence that the ver notion of canceling the debt and achieving a separate, autonomous existence was ridiculous from the start.. or even that the very presumption of positing oneself as separate from humanity or the cosmos..so much so that one can enter into a one to one dealings w it.. is itself the crime that can be answered only by death.. our guilt is not due to the fact we cannot repay our debt to the universe.. our guilt is our presumption in thinking of ourselves as being in any sense an equiv to everything else.. that exists or has ever existed .. so as to be able to conceive of such a debt in the first place.
huge.. think this is a big part of the cancer of intellect ness et al
or let us look at other side of equation.. even if possible to imagine debt to cosmos/humanity.. next question becomes: who has right to speak for cosmos, humanity, to tell us how that debt must be repaid.. if there’s anything more preposterous than claiming to stand apart form entire universe so as to enter into negotiations w it.. it is claiming to speak for the other side
ginormous – idea of whole book (if i’m taking it right).. the whole people telling other people what to do ness
if one were looking for the ethos for an individualistic society such as our own, one way to do it might well be to say: we all owe an infinite debt to humanity, society, nature, or the cosmos (however one prefers to frame it) , but no one else could possible tell us how we are to pay it.. this at least would be intellectually consistent.. if so, it would actually be possible to see almost all systems of established authority – religion, morality, politics, econ, and the criminal justice system – as so many diff fraudulent ways to presume to calculate what cannot be calculated..t to claim the authority to tell us how some aspect of the unlimited debt ought to be repaid..
and even deeper – not just about telling us how to repay debt.. but how to live (which is not same as thinking how to live comes down to paying debt.. )
human freedom would then be our ability to decide for ourselves how we want to do so.. t
huge – ginormous
but again.. not just how to pay debt.. how to live..
‘human freedom would then be our ability to decide for ourselves how we want to do so..’ t
we need to let go of any form of people telling other people what to do ness
no one to my knowledge has ever taken this approach..t instead.. theories of existential debt always end u becoming ways of justifying .. or laying claim to.. structures of authority
we mostly use ‘society’ as synonym for ‘nation’.. only the modern state, w its elab border controls and social policies, that enables us to imagine ‘society’ in this way, as a single bounded entity..
the whole complex of ideas.. the notion that there is this thing called society.. that we have a debt to it.. that govts can speak for it. that it can be imagined as a sort of secular god.. born alongside the idea of the modern nation-state
comte – early 19th cent france.. first coined the term ‘sociology’.. proposed a religion of society, which he called positivism.. broadly modeled on medieval catholicism.. positivism understand only duties.. not rights.. after all: we are born under a load of obligations of ever kind
(on endless debts) no way to calculate to whom ewe even owe them.. only way to redeem selves is to dedicate selves to service of humanity as a while..
comte considered a crackpot.. he was.. but his ideas proved influential .. his notion of unlimited obligations to society crystallized in the notion of the ‘social debt’.. the state, according to this view was merely the admin of an existential debt that all of us have.. we all continue to be completely dependent on one another for our existence, even if we are not completely are of how
emile durkheim.. sounder of discipline of sociology.. did comte one better by arguing that all gods in all religions are always already projections of society – so an explicit religion of society would not even be necessary.. just ways of recognizing our mutual dependence on one another.. god and society are ultimately the same
problem… for several hundred years.. assumed that the guardian of that debt we owe.. is the state
ultimate nationalist myth.. once owed and paid w animal sacrifice.. now owe nation and pay interest in form of taxes.. and in with our lives.. defense of nation against enemies.. this is the great trap of the 20th cent: on one side – logic of market: individuals who don’t owe each other anything.. on other – logic of state: all begin w debt we can never pay.. we are constantly told that they are opposites and that between them they contain the only real human possibilities.. but it’s a false dichotomy.. states create markets.. markets require states.. neither could continue w/o the other..
ch 4 starts 1507
ch 4: cruelty and redemption
there is an unresolved debate between money as commodity and as iou.. it’s both keith hart: ”heads’ symbol of political authority ‘tails’ specific amount/worth for exchange’
money not invented to overcome inconveniences of barter between neighbors.. credit needed trust but also made it a scarcity
thus money almost always something hovering between commodity and debt token
the battle between state/market, between govts/merchants.. is not inherent (essential) to the human condition
it’s only once we can imagine human life as a series of commercial transactions that we’re capable of seeing our relation to the universe in terms of debt..
nietzsche 1877 – step further than smith.. that barter/buying/selling precede any other form of human relationship.. on the feeling of personal obligation he observes: ‘oldest relationship.. an individual measured himself against another.. we have found no civilization still at such a low level that something of this relationship is not already perceptible.. 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.. here too.. the beginning of both astuteness and pride.. pre eminence over other animals: the human being describes himself as a being which assess values, which values and measures, as the ‘inherently calculating animal’.. selling buying older than any form of social orgs/groupings.. *out of the most rudimentary form of personal legal rights.. the budding feeling of exchange, contract, guilt, law, duty, and compensation was instead first transferred to the crudest and earliest social structures.. along w the habit of comparing power w power of measuring, of calculating’
smith too saw the origins of language and hence of human thought – as lying in our propensity to ‘exchange one thing for another’.. in which he also saw the origins of the market.. the urge to trade, to compare values, is *the very thing that makes us intelligent beings and diff from other animals.. society come later.. which means our ideas about responsibilities to other people first take shape in strictly commercial terms.
intellect ness et al not even
unlike smith, nietzsche never thought you could have world where all such transactions immediately cancel out.. he believed it as from this very fact that morality emerge… he says.. germans word schuld means both debt and guilt.. at first to be in debt was simply to be guilty.. repay was humiliation and torture..
what nietzsche is doing here is starting out from the standard, common sense assumptions about the nature of human beings prevalent in his day ( and to a large extent still prevalent) that w are rational calculating machines, that commercial self interest comes before society, that society itself is just a way of putting kind of temp lid on the resulting conflict.. that is.. he is starting out from ordinary bourgeois assumptions.. a worthy game.. and no one has ever played it better.. but a game played entirely w/in boundaries of bourgeois thought.. it has nothing to say to anything that lies beyond it..
like monopoly ie: jordan on jubilee ness
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.
huge.. thank you ness
the last line is something of an anthropological classic.. and similar statement about the refusal to calculate credits/debits can be found throughout the anthropological lit on egalitarian hunting societies..
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..t
it’s not the he, like untold millions of similar egalitarian spirits throughout history, was unaware that humans have a propensity to calculate.. if he wasn’t aware of it, he could not have said what he did.. of course we have a propensity to calculate
we have all sorts of propensities.. that drive us in several diff contradictory direction simultaneously.. no one is more real than any other.. the real question is which we take as the foundation of our humanity and therefore, make the basis of our civilization
good of nietzsches’ anal – shows if we start w assumption that human thought is essentially a matter of commercial calc.. then relationship w cosmos.. in terms of debt
nietzsche helps us in another way as well: to understand concept of redemption.. his description of christianity.. how sense of debt transformed into abiding sense of guilt to self loathing to self torture.. all this does ring very true.. it does seem rather striking that christian message of salvation.. should be framed in language of a financial transaction.. indeed.. all the major religions did
lit & num as colonialism et al
nehemiah – 444 bc – cupbearer to persian emperor.. then gov of judaea – on crisis of impoverished peasants – the law of jubilee – all debts cancelled in 7th year
in bible as in meso ‘freedom’ came to refer above all to release from the effects of debt.. in this light, the adoption of the term by christians is hardly surprising.. redemption was a release from one’s burden os sin/guilt.. end of history wen all slates wiped clean and debts lifted..
if so ‘redemption’ is no longer about buying something back. it’s really more a matter of destroying the entire system of accounting
if only.. still talking in terms of transaction/measure.. not heaven/garden ness
this leads to another problem: what is possible in the meantime, before that final redemption comes
ie: a nother way
still even more striking (after ie of king servant being forgiven debt then he doesn’t forgive his servants debt) is tacit suggestion that forgiveness, in this world, is ultimately impossible.. christians practically say as much every time they recite the lord’ s prayer ‘forgive our debts as we forever our debtors’.. it repeats the story of the parable almost exactly.. and the implications are similarly dire.. after all, mores christians reciting the prayer are aware that they do not generally forgive their debtors.. why then should god forgive them their sins
this is a vision of human life as inherently corrupt.. but also frames even spiritual affairs in commercial terms: w calcs of sin, penance and absolution.. devil and st peter w their rival ledger books.. on one hand outcries against market.. on other.. frame objections in commercial terms.. these ie’s reveal.. when the ancients thought about money.. friendly swaps were hardly the first thing that came to mind.. for most .. what was likely to come to mind: selling/ransoming slaves/prisoners.. corrupt tax farmers, armies, mortgages..and most of all .. tension between needs for money to create families, to acquire a bride so as to have children, and use of that same money to destroy families – to create debts that lead to the same wife/children being taken away
this is what money meant to most people for most of human history: thoughts of sons/daughter being carried off to be subject to every conceivable form of violence/abuse.. possible for years.. as parents waited helpless.. avoiding eye contact w neighbors.. unable to protect
one might object.. ‘that this was just assumed to be in the nature of things: might have been resented but not a moral issue.. some things just happen’.. what’s striking about the historical record.. this was not how many reacted.. many actually did become indignant.. particularly striking because so many other things do seem to have been accepted as simply nature of things.. ie: caste, slavery.. why was it that the debtors’ protests seemed to carry such greater moral weight?
what makes debt diff is that it is premised on an assumption of equality.. to be a slave, lower caste, is to be intrinsically inferior.. these are relations of unadulterated hierarchy.. in case of debts.. talking about two who begin as equal parties to a contract.. legally.. same
between close kin, many ‘loans’ were probably then as now, just gifts that no one seriously expected to recover.. loans between rich/poor were something else gain.. problem was that, unlike status distinctions like caste/slavery, the line between rich/poor was never precisely drawn..
such behavior could be justified in legal terms by insisting that the loan was not a form of mutual aid but a commercial relationship – a contract is a contract.. (it also required a certain reliable access to superior force).. framing as breach of contract. .meant a moral issue: two out to be equals.. but one failed to honor the bargain
bauwens contracts law et al
(good short summary of ch)
throughout most of history, when over political conflict between classes did appear.. took form of pleas for debt cancellation.. the freeing of those in bondage and usually , a more just reallocation of the land.. what we see in bible and other religious traditions are traces of the moral arguments by which such claims were justified, usually subject to all sorts of imaginative twists/turns, but inevitably, to some degree, incorporating the language of the marketplace itself..
ch 5: a brief treatise on the moral grounds of economic relations
to tell the history of debt, then, is also necessarily to reconstruct how the language of the marketplace has come to pervade every aspect of human life.. even to provide the terminology for the moral/religious voices raised against it
making the curious move: first describing all morality as debt.. but then in very manner of doing so, demo ing that morality cannot really be reduced to debt.. that it must be grounded in something else.. but what?
my aim here – modest.. so i will take opp approach.. (than the cosmo answers religions prefer).. must start w very small things.. way we treat friends enemies, children.. often w gestures so tiny.. passing salt.. that we rarely stop to think.. anthropology has shown how diff are ways humans have org’d selves.. but also reveals some remarkable commonalities.. wherever people transfer objects back and forth or argue about what other people owe them
so commonalities in org.. when whales in sea world? ie: exchange and debt not natural
in sense moral thought founded on tension of confusion of principles
to really understand debt then.. will be necessary to understand how it’s diff from other sorts of obligation
? when that‘s not natural? i don’t know
in trun.. means mapping out what those other sorts of obligation actually are.. doing so , howdver , poses peculiar challenges
perhaps biggest challenge: letting go of thinking obligation ness is natural
contemp social theory, econ anthropology included.. offer surprisingly little help.. ie: ie’s of gift econ completely diff than market
because everything/data/history to date is non legit.. ie: on whales.. even/esp gift ness
but in the end.. almost all this lit concentrates on the exchange of gifts, assuming that whenever one gives a gift, their act incurs a debt and the recipient must eventually reciprocate in kind.. t
much as in the case of the great religions the logic of the marketplace has insinuated itself even into the thinking of those who are most explicitly opposed to it. as a result.. i am going to have to start over here.. to create a new theory.. pretty much from scratch
yes.. we need a re\set .. bad
just about anyone who runs anything important in america is expected to have some training in econ theory or at least be familiar w its basic tenets
those tenets have come to be treated as received wisdom.. as basically beyond question .. and those questioning treated as ignorant
what’s more.. start from same assumptions about human psych that economists do: humans best viewed as self interested actors calculating how to get best for self.. w least sacrifice.. curious considering experimental physiologists have demo’d over/over again that these assumptions simply aren’t true
from early on.. some wished to create theory of social interaction grounded in a more generous view of human nature.. key term became reciprocity.. the sense of equity, blaance, fairness, and symmetry, embodied in our image of justice as set of sclaes
but if one examines matters closely.. finds that all human relation s are based on some variation on reciprocity
perhaps whales are.. poisonous to human relations
levi strauss: ‘life imagined as 3 spheres: language (exchange of words); kinships (exchange of women); econ (exchange of things).. all 3 governed by reciprocity’.. not as if anyone has proposed a bold new theory to replace all this..
almost everyone continues to assume that in its fundamental nature social life is based on reciprocity and therefore that all human interaction can best be understood as a kind of exchange.. if so debt rally is at root of morality (balance not restored)
all red flags: recip, exch, debt
but can all justice really be reduced to reciprocity.. it’s easy to come up w forms of recip that don’t seem particularly just ie: do unto others; eye for eye;..
precisely why presentation of such a bill (father to son on what he owes him for raising him) seems so outrageous.. squaring accounts means the two parties have the ability to walk away from each other.. by presenting it.. his father suggested he’d just a soon have nothing further to do with him.. in other words.. most can’t imagine what we owe parents.. or being able to pay it.. or even if we should.. yet if can’t be paid.. what sense is it a debt at all.. and if not a debt.. what is it
something extra ord about saving a life.. anything surrounding birth/death almost cannot help but partake of the infinite, and therefore throws all everyday means of mora calculation askew
if one save life.. considered responsible for taking care of that person forever.. defies our sense of reciprocity.. but somehow .. also makes a weird kind of sense.. let’s try a though experiment.. imagine we are dealing w a place where if one man saved another’s life.. the two became like brothers.. paying him back an insult.. wanting nothing further to do w him..
my point is.. such form of racial equality/ineq.. do exist in world.. each carries w/in it its own kind of morality.. own way of thinking/arguing about rights/wrongs of any give situation.. these moralities are entirely diff than that of tit for tat exchange..
yeah.. haven’t seen any diff than tit for tat in my looking/listening ness.. all i see is
rest of ch.. proposing 3 main moral principles on which econ relations can be founded: communism, hierarchy, and exchange
section on communism
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.”
communism has always a distant, fuzzy utopian ideal.. to be achieved some pt in distant future.. dominated by a myth.. ie: eden; golden age; hunter gatherer bands.. then came fall.. and now cursed ww division of power and private property..
the dream was that someday w the advance of tech and general prosperity.. w social revolution or the guidance of the party .. we would finally be in a position to put things back.. restore common ownership/management of collective resources.. arguments over how plausible this pic was
well.. first need to let go of ie: ownership; property; management.. then.. now .. w tech to ground that chaos.. plausible.. ie: imagine if we
(argued over plausibility) but all agreed on basic frame: communism was about collective property, ‘primitive communism’ did once exist .. might return
it’s high time to brush entire argument aside.. in fact, ‘communism’ is not some magical utopia and either does it have anything to do w ownership of the means of production.. it is something that exists right now.. in any human society.. although there has never been one in which everything has been org’d in that way , and it would be difficult to *imagine how there could be.. all of us act like communists a good deal of time.. **none of us act like communist consistently
**because whales/rats in sea-world/cate
communist society in a sense of a society org’d exclusively on that single principle – would never exist..
hmm. i don’t know
but all social systems, even econ systems like capitalism, have always ben built on top of a bedrock of actually existing communism
? but the econ systems have all been poison.. so matters little what built on
no one’s tried this: oikos (the economy our souls crave).. ‘i should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.’ – gaston bachelard, the poetics of space
starting as a i say from the principle of ‘from each according to their ability to each according to their needs’ allows us to look past the question of individual/private ownership (often legality anyway).. as more immediate/pracital question sof who has access to what sorts of things and under what conditions..
ironically enough.. considering the conventional wisdom that communism just doesn’t work: if you really care about getting something done, most efficient way to go about it is obviously to allocate tasks by ability and give people whatever they need to do them
huge – graeber min\max law et al
top down chains of command are not particularly efficient: tend to promote stupidity among those on top and resentful foot dragging on bottom.. important.. (how we come together in crises) shows we are not simply talking about cooperation.. in fact, communism is the foundation of all human sociability..
huge yes.. beyond coop ness
there is always an assumption that anyone who is not an enemy can be expected to act on the principle of ‘from each according to ability’ at least to an extent
so just need means to uncover/re-see our interconnectedness.. so that enemy ness is irrelevant
main point.. requires scale.. immediate life threat.. before people will ordinarily consider not giving a stranger accurate direction.. it’s not just directions.. conversation is a domain particularly disposed to communism.. lies, insults, put down and other sorts of verbal aggression are important.. but they derive most of power from shared assumption that people don’t ordinarily act this way.. ie: insult doesn’t sting unless assume other will normally be considerate.. lie unless tell truth.. when we genuinely wish to break off amicable relations w someone..we stop speaking to them entirely
language as control/enclosure et al..
begs 2 conversations et al
however.. this baseline of open handed sharing/generosity never extends to everything
often things freely shared treated as trivial for that reason..
obligation to share food and whatever else basic necessity
sharing not simply about morality.. but also about pleasure.. solitary pleasure always exists.. but for most human beings.. most pleasurable activities almost always involve sharing something: music, food, liquor, drugs, gossip, drama, beds.. there is a certain communism of the senses at the root of most things we consider fun
indeed.. but again.. not sure i’d call it sharing.. (too much accounting ness implied.. even if person being aware they are sharing.. much like what thank you ness dos to us)
surest way to know that one is in the presence of communist relations is that not only are no accounts taken but it would be considered offensive, or simply bizarre, to even consider doing so..
on baseline communism not enough.. even though.. it’s a recognition of our ultimate interdependence/peace..
on individualistic communism – 1 on 1’s et al
finally.. there are the diff sorts of commons (the collective admin of common resource..
i think this is baseline of our tragedy of the non common – thinking there are sorts of commons.. as ridiculous/impossible as it sounds.. it won’t work unless it’s all of us and everything
huge – listen deeper
2\ if we create a way to ground the chaos of 8b free people
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.
unable to see/be revolution of everyday life since blinded by sea-world/cage
1\ not reciprocity (accounting)
first (in everyday communism) we are not really dealing w reciprocity.. such relations are based on presumption of eternity.. this is why no accounts need be taken..
2\ not hospitality (enemies)
second has to do w famous ‘law of hospitality’.. what you do w enemies
understandable that dealing w potentially *hostile stranger should encourage an **all or nothing logic.. a tension preserved even in english in etymology of : host; hostile; hostage; hospitality.. same latin root.. what i want to emphasize here is that all such gestures are simply exaggerated displays of that very baseline communism
and so (to me) not deep enough.. making us think in terms of *strangers (rather than interconnected)
in fact, those things that exist above all to be shared often become those things one cannot share w enemies.. and inconvenience this creates is a major incentive to try to negotiate some sort of settlement
3\ not morality (bias)
third.. if communism as principal of morality rather than just property ownership.. morality always at play to some degree in any transaction.. even commerce
once gain.. we are back to the principle that if the needs (ie: dire poverty) or the abilities (ie: wealth beyond imagination) are sufficiently dramatic.. some degree of communist morality will enter into way people take accounts..
hmm.. was thinking of this (quote) more of a one body dance.. this description in ().. sounds lie a rich/poor balancing/accounting et al
section on exchange
communism then is based neither in exchange nor reciprocity – except as i have observed.. in the sense that it does involve mutual expectation and responsibilities
exchange is all about equiv.. it’s a back and forth process involving two sides in which each side gives as good as it gets.. not that there is ever an exact equiv – even if there were some way to measure an exact equiv.. but more a constant process of interaction tending toward equiv
equiv ness not the point – equity is
often element of competition.. but at same time .. sense that both sides are keeping accounts and that.. unlike what happens in communism (notion of eternity).. the entire relationship can be canceled out.. either party can call an end to it at any time
exchange allows way to cancel debts.. call it even.. end a relationship.. w vendors.. one is usually only pretending to have a relationship.. w neighbors.. one might for this very reason prefer not to pay one’s debts.. ie: all such gifts did have to be returned.. it would be entirely inappropriate to simply accept three eggs from a neighbor and never bring anything back.. one could even bring money.. provided in a discreet interval .. above all.. not the exact cost of the eggs.. had to be more/less.. to bring back nothings would be to cast oneself as exploiter/parasite.. bring back exact equiv would be to suggest one no longer wishes to have anything to do w the neighbor..
on commercial vs gift exchange – yet both swimming in the poison of tit for tat ness
‘an endless circle of gifts to which no one ever handed over the precise value of object last receive’ and in does so.. they were continually creating their society
unlike communistic relations, which are assumed to be permanent.. this sort of neighborliness had to be constantly created and maintained.. because any link can be broken off at any time
there are endless variations on this sort of tit for tat or almost tit for tat, gift exchange.. the most familiar is the exchange of presents..t
there are endless variations on this sort of tit for tat or almost tit for tat, gift exchange.. the most familiar is the exchange of presents.. t
the feeling that one really ought to return the favor – can’t be explained by standard econ theory.. which assumes that any human interaction is ultimately a business deal and that we are all self interested individuals trying to get most for selves for least cost/effort.. but this feeling is quite real and it can cause genuine strain for those of limited means trying to keep up appearances
things can easily slip into games of one upmanship.. and hence obsession, humiliation, rage,.. or as we’ll soon see, even worse.. in some societies, these games are formalized.. but it’s important to stress that such games only really develop between people or groups who perceive selves to be more/less equiv in status
pierre bourdieu: ‘games of honor in algeria.. in which exchange of insults, attacks (in feud or battles), thefts or threats was seen to follow exactly the same logic as the exchange of gifts.. to give a gift is both an honor/provocation.. to respond requires infinite artistry.. timing is all important.. above all.. is the tacit moral principle that one must always pick on someone one’s own size.. otherwise damage to reputation if snubbed or cruel (giving to someone who can’t respond in like)
in some contexts.. even praising another’s possession might be interpreted as a demand of this sort (exchange ness).. sometimes gifts offered in order for giver to be able to make such a demand: if one accepts.. is then tacitly agreeing to allow the giver to claim whatever he deems equiv..
w/in communities.. almost always a reluctance.. to allow things to cancel out.. one reason that if money.. people often refuse to use it w friends/relatives.. or.. use it in radically diff ways..
section of hierarchy
exchange then implies formal equality or at least potential for it.. this is precisely why kings have such trouble w it.. in contrast, relations of explicit hierarchy.. that is.. one superior to other.. do not tend to operate by reciprocity at all.. hard to see because relation is often justified in reciprocal terms.. (peasants provide food, lords protection).. but the principle by which they operate is exactly the opposite.. in practice.. hierarchy tends to work by a logic of *precedent..
hier archy ness and *habitus ness
in similar way, religious traditions often insist that the only true charity is anonymous – not meant to place the recipient in one’s debt. ie: santa claus – a benevolent burglar
conquest, untrammeled force, becomes systematized, and thus framed not as a predatory relation but as a moral one, w lords providing protection and villagers, their sustenance..
structural violence et al
ie: just how much harvest king’s retainers are entitled to carry off.. very likely frame calcs in terms of quality or quantity of protection provided, but rather in terms of custom and precedent: how much did we pay last year.. how much did ancestors have to pay? .. same for charity.. if basis for social relation.. will not be based on reciprocity.. ie: give panhandles coins.. and he recognizes you later.. unlikely he’ll give you money.. but he might consider you more likely to give him money again.. such an act of one sided generosity is treated as precedent for what will be expected afterward..
this is what i mean when i say hierarchy operates by a principle that is opposite of reciprocity.. when lines of superior/inferior are clearly drawn/accepted.. and relations ongoing so no longer dealing w arbitrary force.. then relations will be seen as being reg’d by a web of habit/custom..
on habitus and hierarchy and structural violence
this intro’s another complication to problem of giving gifts to superior.. there is always the danger that it will be treated as a precedent.. added to web of custom and therefore considered obligatory thereafter..
once relations based on ‘custom’ only way to demo one has a duty/obligation to do something is to show that one has done it before.. often such arrangements can turn into a logic of caste.. ie: come to be known as fishermen or barbers..
this last point can’t be overemphasized because it brings home another truth regularly overlooked: that the logic of id is, always and everywhere, entangled in the logic of hierarchy..t
‘the logic of identity is, always and everywhere, entangled in the logic of hierarchy.‘.. t
it is only when certain people are placed above others, or where everyone is being ranked in relation to the king, high priest, et al.. that one begins to speak of people bound by their essential nature: about fundamentally diff kinds of human being.. ideologies of caste or race are just extreme ie’s.. it happens whenever one group is seen as raising selves above/below others.. in a way that *ordinary standards of fair dealing no longer apply
marsh label law et al
*unsettling to begin with.. so (for me) not the point here
the moment we recognize someone as diff sort of person.. above/below us.. then ordinary rules of reciprocity become modified or are set aside
again.. i don’t thing there are legit *ordinary rules of reciprocity.. i think rules/reciprocity are cancerous to human being
or.. diff via habitus means no legit whale diff
ie: if friend is unusually generous once.. we wish to recip.. if acts this way repeatedly.. we conclude she is a generous person and less likely to recip..
formula: action repeated become customary; as a result.. comes to define the actors’ essential nature.. alternately a person’s nature may be defined by how others have acted toward him in the past..
deadly marsh label law et al.. habitus ness..
much of art of being such a person is that of treating oneself in manner that conveys how you expect others to treat you ie: kings covering self w gold.. other end of he scale.. this is also how abuse becomes self legitimating ie: if middle class 13 yr girl old kidnapped, raped, killed.. national crisis on tv for several weeks.. if 13 yr old girl is turned out as child prostitute, raped systematically for years, and ultimately killed, this is considered unremarkable.. just the sort of thing one can expect to end up happening to someone like that
result being (wealth between superiors and inferiors) that there is no way to even conceive of a squaring of accounts.. ie: how much military protection was equiv to a ton of wheat.. nor did anyone ever consider making such a calc.. neither is it that ‘lowly’ sorts of people are necessarily given lowly sorts of things and vice versa.. sometimes it is quite the oppostie ie: noble patron provided room/board/money and client showed his gratitude by paining the mona lisa.. was in no way seen to compromise the assumption of the noble’s intrinsic superiority..
one great exception to this principe.. the phenom of hierarchical redistribution.. where give back/forth exactly same thing.. ie: nigeria.. fans throw money on stage.. star tours fans’ neighborhoods tossing same money from windows of limo..
ie: n american chief.. often poorest man in village such was the pressure on him for constant supply of largesse (generosity in bestowing money)
one could judge how egalitarian a society really was by: authority conduits for redistribution or sue positions to accumulate riches.. the latter .. most likely aristocratic societies.. that add another element: war and plunder.. after all.. just about anyone who comes into ver large amount of wealth.. will ultimately give at least part away. the more one’s ‘wealth obtained by plunder/extortion.. the more spectacular and self aggrandizing will be the forms in which it’s given away.. rep ing selves as protectors of helpless.. supporters of widows, orphans, poor.. the genealogy of the modern redistributive state.. w its notorious tendency to foster id politics.. can be traced back not to any sort of ‘primitive communism’ but ultimately to violence and war
we’re not talking about diff types of society here.. (very idea that we’ve ever been org’d into discrete ‘socities’ is dubious) but moral principles tha talwsy coexist everywehre.. we are communists w our closest friends, feudal lords when dealing w small children.. very hard to imagine a society wehr ethiws would not be true..
feudal lords w children? as natural? or as whales?
the obvious question is: if we are all ordinarily moving back/forth between completely diff system of moral accounting.. why hadn’t anybody notice 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.. what we fall back on when thinking in abstract.. esp when trying to create an idealize picture of society.. way of imagining communism thru reciprocity
one simple formula: some pray, some fight, others work.. even hierarchy was seen as ultimately recip.. despite this formula having nothing to do w how real relations between priests, knights, peasants operated on the ground
despite recip ness having nothing to do w legit free people
anthropologists are familiar w the phenom: only when people who have never had occasion to really think about their society/culture as a whole.. probably weren’t even aware they were living inside something other people considered a ‘society/culture’ are asked to explain how everything works that they say things like ‘this is how we repay our .. ‘ which never seem to quite correspond to what real people actually do
go even deeper.. embed anthropologists in society.. ie: we’re all in sea world.. we have no idea what legit free people would actually do..
when trying to imagine a just society, it’s hard not to evoke images of balance and symmetry, of elegant geometries where everything balances out
the idea that there is something call the market is not so very diff.. economist will often admit this.. markets aren’ real.. they’re math models created by imagining a self contained world where everyone has exactly the same motivation /knowledge and is engaged in same self interest calculating exchange.. economists are aware that reality is more complicated.. but.. they also aware that to come up w a math model.. one always has to make the world into a bit of a cartoon.. *there’s nothing wrong w this.. problem comes when it enables some to say those who ignore dictates of market will be punished..
principles get tangled up .. difficult to tell which *predominates in a given situation.. one reason it’s ridiculous to pretend we could ever reduce human behavior, econ or otherwise, to a math formula of any sort
but we do have *predominating/essential basics.. that fit every situation.. and if we org’d around that.. math/formula/measuring/accounting ness.. all become irrelevant
ie: if have rich patron.. come to him in times of need.. and he is expected to help you.. but only to a certain degree.. no one expects the patron to provide so much help that it threatens to undermine the underlying ineq..
yeah.. wow.. that
on hunter customs – a member who draws attention to accomplishments will find self the object of mockery.. often only polite thing to do if accomplished.. is to make fun of self..
(back to author of book of the eskimo) – ie: hunter took offense when author tired to thank him .. after all.. humans help one another.. and once we treat something as a gift.. we turn into something less than human
ie: hunter took offense when author tired to thank him .. after all.. humans help one another.. and once we treat something as a gift.. we turn into something less than human
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.
the only liit is the knowledge tha nnything one can demand, th eother one can too.. htere, again , we are talkign abou tan intial establishment of trust
and otherwise trust that each will look after the other’s commercial interests from then on
it’s not as if someone who loses out in a contest of gift exchange is ever actually reduced to slavery, but he might end up feeling as if he were.. consequences could be catastrophic..
competitive gift exchange, then, does not literally render anyone slaves; it is simply an affair of honor.. these are people whoever, for who honor is everything
law of hospitality in ancient world.. insisted that any traveler must be fed, shelter, treated as honored guest.. but only for a certain length of time.. if guest did not go away, he would eventually become a mere subordinate
everyone places great emphasis on importance of mutual aid ‘giving service’.. people living in same community should look out for one another and pitch in when neighbors having trouble.. this is the essence of communal morality.. it’s how one knows that any sort of community exists.. so far so good..
yeah.. i see poison already ie: look out for one another ness.. form of help\ing.. rather than trusting people to know/grok own needs et al..
however, she notes, when someone does particularly great favor.. mutual aid can turn into something else.. it slips into ineq.. thus.. patron-client relations come into being
and i’d say they came into being once we started thinking we had to be help\ing others (rather than being our part of the body et al)
(back to eskimo story – walrus hunter): basket of tomatoes was simply equiv of saying ‘thank you’ it was a way of acknowledging that one owes a debt of gratitude. that gifts had in fact made slaves just as ships make dogs.. the boss and the employee are not fundamentally diff sorts of people.. the problem is that in all other respects.. they are not fundamentally diff sorts of people.. they ought to be equals.. as a result.. even the tomatoes.. which are really a token of recognition of the existence of a debt that can never be repaid.. has to be rep’d as if it was itself a kind of repayment – an interest payment on a loan that could, everyone agrees to pretend, someday be paid back.. thus returning the two members to their proper equal status once again..
a wage labor contract is, ostensibly, a free contract between equals – but an agreement between equals in which both agree that once one of them punches the time clock.. they won’t be equals anymore.. t
10-day-care-center\ness et al
seems to me this agreement between equals to no longer be equal (at least for a time) is critically important… it is the very essence of what we call ‘debt’..
debt is a very specific thinking, and it arises form very specific situations.. it first requires a relationship between two people who do not consider each other fundamentally diff sorts of being.. who are at least potential equals, who are equals in those ways that are really important, and who are not currently in a state of equality – but for whom there is some way to set matters straight
this means there is no such thing as a genuinely unpayable debt.. if there was no conceivable way to salvage the situation. we wouldn’t be calling it a ‘debt’..
during time that the debt remains unpaid.. the logic of hierarchy takes hold.. there is not reciprocity..
first thing jailers communicate is that nothing that happens in jail has anything to do w justice..
this is what makes situation of effectively unpayable debt so difficult and so painful.. since creditor and debtor are ultimately equals.. if debtor cannot do what it takes to restore herself to equality.. there is obviously something wrong w her; it must be her fault
a debt then is just an exchange that has not been brought to completion..
exchange ness as cancer too though.. even if it gets completed..
it follows that debt is strictly a created of reciprocity and has little to do w other sorts of morality (communism, w its needs and abilities; hierarchy, w it’s customs and qualities)..
wow.. keep re reading this..
true, if we were really determined we could argue 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 defn, forms of exchange and then performing whatever mental somersaults are required to prove it
same song ness
no. all human interactions are not forms of exchange. only some are. exchange encourages a particular way of conceiving human relations. this is because exchange implies equality, but it also implies separation
debt is what happen in between: when the two parties cannot yet walk away from each other, because they are not yet equal .. carried out in shadow of eventual equality.. because achieving that equality.. destroys the very reason for having a relationship..just about everything happens inbetween
in fact, just about everything human happens in between – even if this means that al such human relations bear with them at least a tiny element of criminality, guilt, or shame
?.. in sea-world/cage
by ensuring that everyone was slightly in debt to one anther.. they (tiv women) actually created human society.. if a very fragile sort of society – a delicate web made up of obligations to return 3 eggs for a bag of okra, ties renewed and recreated as any one of them could be canceled out at any time..
our own *habits of civility are not so very diff.. consider the custom, in american society of constantly saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ .. to do so is often treated as basic morality: we are constantly chiding children for forgetting to do it, just as the moral guardians of our society – teachers and ministers, for instance – do to everybody else.. we often assume that the habit is universal.. but as the inuit hunger made clear.. it is not.. like so many of our everyday courtesies.. it is a kind of democratization of what was once a habit of feudal deference: the insistence on treating absolutely everyone the way that one used only to have to treat a lord or similar hierarchical superior
and to me.. none of it humane/natural
(and).. their apparent unimportance can be measured by the fact that almost no one would refuse, on principle to say ‘please’ or ‘thank yo’ in just about any situation – even those who might find it almost impossible to say ‘i’m sorry’
in fact in english please is short for if you please.. if it pleases you to do this.. it is the same in most european languages.. it’s literal meaning is ‘you are under no obligation to do this’ .. this is not true; there is a social obligation and it would be almost impossible not to comply.. but etiquette largely consists of the exchange of polite fictions (to use less polite language, lies).. when you ask someone to pass the salt.. you are also giving them an order.. by attaching word please.. you are saying that it is not an order.. but in fact it is..
in english.. thank you .. derives from ..think.. it originally meant.. ‘i will remember what you did for me’.. which is usually not true either .. but in other languages.. (ie: portuguese obrigado) the standard term follows the from of the english ‘much obliged’.. it actually does mean ‘i am in your debt’..
the french merci is even more graphic: derives from mercy.. as in begging for mercy; by saying ti you are symbolically placing yourself in your benefactor’s power.. since a debtor is, after all, a criminal..
saying you’re welcome or it’s nothing (spanish de nada) the latter has at least the advantage of often being literally true – is a way of reassuring the one to whom one has passed the salt that you are not actually inscribing debit in your imaginary moral account book.. so is saying .. my pleasure.. you are saying ‘no actually , it’s a credit, not a debit.. you did me a favor because in asking me to pass the salt .. you gave me the opp to do something i found rewarding in itself’..
decoding the tacit calculus of debt (i owed you one.. no you don’t own me anything.. actually if anything it’s me who owes you… as if inscribing and the scratching off so many infinitesimal entries in an endless ledger) makes it easy to understand why this sort of thing is often viewed not as the quintessence of morality, but as the quintessence of middle class morality
aka: base of the whales
in other words, middle class etiquette insists that we are all equals, but it does os in a very particular way.. on one hand.. pretends that nobody is giving anybody orders (think of burly security guard at mall who appears before someone walking into a restricted area and says .. can i help you); on other .. treats every gesture of what i’ve been calling ‘baseline communism’ as if it were really a form of exchange.. as result .. mid class society as to be endlessly recreated.. criss crossing of an infinity of momentary debt relations.. each one almost instantly cancelled out..
all of this is a relatively recent innovation.. the habit of alway say ing please and thank you first began to take hold during the commercial revolution of the 16-17the centuries.. language of bureaus, shops, and offices, and over course of last 500 yrs has spread across the world along w them.. it is also merely one token of a much larger philosophy: 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.
the pantagruel story – in praise of debt: ‘a universe sans debts.. the moon would remain dark and bloody; why should the sun share his light w her? he is under no obligation.. between the elements there will be no mutual sharing of qualities.. not alternation.. not transmutation whatsoever.. one will not think itself obliged to the other; it has lent it nothing.. amongst human beings.. none would save another.. ‘
his perspective of course is that of a wealthy debtor – not one liable to be trundled off to some pestiferous dungeon for failure to pay.. and what he says is true.. *if we insist on defining all human interaction s a smatters of people giving one thing for another.. being human would have no significance; we would all become isolated planets who couldn’t even be counted on to maintain our proper orbits..
these words are huge.. ie: true *if sea world true
ch 6 starts 2611
ch 6: games with sex and death
reducing all human life to exchange means not only shunting aside all other forms of econ experience (hierarchy, communism), but also ensuring that the vast majority of the human race who are not adult males, and therefore whose day to day existence is relatively difficult to reduce to a matter of swapping things in such a way as to seek mutual advantage, melts away in to the background..
as a result, we end up w a sanitized view of the way actual business is conducted.. the tidy world of shops and malls is the quintessential middle class environ.. but at either the top/bottom of the system.. the world of financiers/gangsters.. deals are often made in ways not so completely diff from ways that the funwinggu or nambikwara make then – at least in that sex, drugs, music, extravagant displays of food and the potential for violence do often play parts ie: neil bush (g bush’s bro).. getting un paid prostitutes to room et al
as a result, though, the histories we tell are full of blank spaces, and the women in them seem to appear out of nowhere w/o explanation, much like the thai women who appeared a bush’s door.. ie: passage from ch 3 – about money in the barbarian law codes: compensation reckoned primarily in cattle and in the irish ones in cattle or bondmaids..’.. how is it possible to read this passage w/o immediately stopping at the end of the first line? ‘bondmaids’?.. doesn’t that means slaves? (it does)
huge.. deeyah et al
in ancient ireland, female slaves were so plentiful and important that they came to function as currency? how did that happen? and 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/significant? ..yet none of the sources on money remark much on it.. who were they? how were they enslaved..? answers seem to be yes.. but hard to say because history remains largely unwritten
was it normal for a man in 1st cent palestine to be able to sell his wife? (it wasn’t).. if he didn’t own her, why was someone else allowed to sell her if he couldn’t pay his debts?.. same could be asked of story in nehemia.. one could ask.. why weren’t they taking him (rather than his daughter).. the daughter hadn’t borrowed any money..
not as if it is ordinary for fathers to sell children.. this is a practice w a very specific history: appears in the great agrarian civs form sumer to rom to china.. right around time when w e also start to see evidence of money, markets, and interest bearing loans;.. and later as those surrounding hinterlands supplied those civs w slaves.. seems to be good reason to believe.. that the very obsession w patriarchal honor that so defines ‘tradition’ in middle east .. arose alongside the father’s power to alienate his children – seen as moral perils of the market.. all of this is treated as somehow outside the bounds of econ history..
excluding all this is deceptive not only because it excludes main purposes to which money was actually put in the past.. but because it doesn’t give us a clear vision of the preset.. after all, who were those thai women who so mysteriously appeared at neil bush’s hotel door? almost certainly, they were children of indebted parents.. likely as not, they were contractual debt peons themselves..
focusing on sex industry would be deceptive, though.. then as now , most women in debt bondage spend the vast majority of their time sewing, preparing soups, and scouring latrines.. even in bible.. ‘don’t covet neighbor’s wife’ clearly referred not to lust in one’s heart (adultery already covered in commandment 7) but to the prospect of taking her as a debt peon.. as a servant to sweep one’s yard and hang laundry.. in most such matters, sexual exploitation was at best incidental..
again as we remove some of our usual blinders.. we see that matters have changed far less.. over last 5000 yrs than we really like to think..
ie: ‘primitive money’.. the sorts one encounters in places w no states/markets.. (cloth, feather monies – ironic because primitive was suggesting crude version of currencies we use today) .. these are kinds of transactions economists don’t like to have to talk about.. often such currencies never used to buy/sell anything al all.. instead.. used to create, maintain and otherwise reorg relations between people: to arrange marriages, estab paternity of children, head off feuds, funerals, forgiveness for crimes.. negotiate treaties, acquire followers.. almost anything but trade in yams, shovels, pigs or jewelry
i’ve decided to refer to them as ‘social currencies’.. and the econ that employ them as ‘human econs’.. by this i mean not that these societies are necessarily in any way more humane but that they are econ systems primarily concerned not w the accumulation of wealth but w the creation, destruction, and rearranging of human beings
historically, commercial (today call them market ) econs are a relative newcomer.. for most of human history, human econs predominated.. so ask.. what sort of debts/credits// do people accum in human econs? and what happens when human econs overtaken by commercial ones.. this is another way of asking: how do mere obligations turn into debts?
the most interesting theory of the origin of money .. rospabe’s argument is that ‘primitive money’ was not originally away to pay debts of any sort. it’s a way of recognizing the existence of debts that cannot possible be paid.. his argument is worth considering in detail
in most human econs, money is used first/foremost to arrange marriages.. simplest and probably most commons ways of doing this was by being presented as what used to be called ‘brideprice’
marriage\ing et al
practice (seen as buying a woman for marriage) caused something of a scandal.. by 1926 league of nations was debating banning practice as a form of slavery.. anthropologists objected.. really, they explained, this was nothing like the purchase of say an ox.. let alone a pair of sandals..
it’s a way of rearranging relations between people.. if he’s buying anything.. it’s the right to call her offspring his own.. everyone at time insisted that a proper marriage should take the form of an exchange of sisters..
the system quickly gave rise to a very complex set of arrangements ie: men as wards.. would swap/trade them (women) in process accumulate numerous wives for selves.. while less fortunate mean wer only able to marry late in life or not at all (tiv women)
money then begins.. as rospabe himself puts it.. ‘as a sub for life’.. one might call it the recognition of a life-debt.. invariably exact same kind of money used to arrange marriages also used to pay money present to fam of murder victim.. so as to prevent/resolve a blood feud..
again, money is first/foremost an acknowledgement that one owes something more valuable than money.. in case of blood feud.. both parties aware that even a revenge killing.. while at least conforms ot principle of la life for a life.. won’t really compensate for the victim’s grief/pain.. this knowledge allows for some possibility of settling matter w/o violence.. but even here.. often a feeling that.. as in case of marriage.. the real solution to the problem is simply being temporarily postponed
much the same as w bridewealth.. money doesn’t to wipe out debt.. at best.. those paying bloodwealth, by admitting the existence of the debt and insisting that they wish they could pay it.. even thought they know this is impossible, can allow the matter to be placed permanently on hold
(lewis henry morgan): present of white wampum (beads) was not in nature of compensation for life of deceased.. but of regretful confession of the crime.. w a petition for forgiveness.. a peace offering .. acceptance of which was pressed by mutual friends (to keep from future fights/harm)
also in many cases.. also some way to manip system to turn payments meant to assuage one’s rage/grief into way of creating a new life that would in some sense sub for the one that was lost.. (because in taking a life loved one left) had effectively been robbed of his eternity
it’s not that we owe ‘society’ .. if there is any notion of ‘society’ here.. and it’s not clear that there is – society is our debts
(lele – african/congo people – 10 000 ish) by 1950s managed to turned the principle of blood debts into the organizing principle of their entire society.. couldn’t use (cloth) to acquire food, tools, or really much of anything.. it was the quintessential social currency.. informal gifts of raffia cloth smooth all social relations
these gifts were hierarchical in nature: that is, it never occurred to those receiving them that they should have to recip in any way
men could not use money to acquire women; nor could they use it to claim any rights over children.. the lele were matrilenial.. children belonged not to their father’s clan but to their mother’s..
there was another way men gained control over women however.. this was the system of blood debts.. common understanding among many traditional african peoples that human begin do not simply die w/o a reason.. if someone dies.. someone must have killed them.. once village was satisfied that a culprit had been id’d.. that person owed a blood debt: victim’s next of kin a human life.. ie: young woman from his fam to be victim’s ward or ‘pawn’.. as w the tiv.. the system quickly became immensely complicated.. pawnship was inherited.. point was to get hold of a young woman who would then go on to produce additional pawn children..
trading humans.. so life-debts more appropriate.. also.. human life meant woman’s life.. even more specifically.. young woman’s life.. mary douglas.. who was in no sense a feminist.. was forced to admit that the whole arrangement did seem to operate as if it were one gigantic apparatus for asserting male control over women.. true above all because women themselves could not own paws.. they could only be pawns.. young women were thus the credits/debits.. the pieces being moved around the chessboard.. while the hands that moved them were invariably male..
form male pawns: advantageous since owner paid most of fines/fees et all.. this is why .. douglas informants insisted.. pawnship had nothing in common w slavery
for a woman: since was the stakes in game all men were playing.. afforded all sorts of opps to game the system.. flirt/intrigue.. could get another husband if it suited her
could slip off at night to an enemy village where she asks for sanctuary.. they would immediately declare her ‘wife of the village’ who all men living there would then be obliged to protect..
most older men had several wives.. reducing pool for younger men
village wife was more than respectable.. treated very much like a princess.. all household chores were done by her eager young husbands.. she could help self to others’ possession and was expected to make all sorts of mischief to the bemused indulgence of all concerned.. also expected to make self sexually available to all members of the age set.. perhaps 10-12 diff men.. at first, pretty much whenever they wanted her..
over time.. she’d settle down w just 3-4.. and finally.. just one.. flexible.. but in principle.. married to the village as a whole.. if she had children.. the village was considered to be their father.. ..expected to bring them up.. provide them w resources .. as result.. villages became corp bodies.. collective groups that.. like modern corps.. had to be treated as if they were individuals for purposes of law.. unlike ordinary individuals.. villages could back up their claims w force..
doulgas emphasizes this as crucial.. because in everyday affairs.. there was almost complete lack of any systematic means of coercion.. there were all sorts of rules.. but w no govt/courts/judges to make authoritative decisions.. no group of armed men willing or able to employ the threat of force to back those decisions..
so.. gentle/agreeable behavior.. if fight did break out.. everyone would immediately jump in to break it up..
your own song ness
villages in contrast.. were fortified and age sets could be mobilized to act as military units. here, and only here, did org’d violence enter the picture.. true, when villages fought, it was also always over women
it’s exactly this point too where the potential for violence enters.. that the great wall constructed between the value of lives and money can suddenly come tumbling down..
in other words, it was only when violence was brought into the equation that there was any question of buying and selling people..
the ability to deploy force to cut thru the endless maze of preferences, obligations, expectations, and responsibilities that marked *real human relationships, also made it possible to overcome what is otherwise the first rule of all lele econ relationships: that human lives can only be exchanged for other human lives.. and never for physical objects
mere fact of their (slaves) existence set a precedent.. the value of a human life could, sometimes, be quantified.. ; but if one was able to move from – one life equal another – to one life equals 100 cloths.. it was only because the equation was established at the point of a separation..
these (cloth and wood.. what they used as currency) then were the materials used to shape people’s physical appearance.. to make them appear mature, decent, attractive and dignified to their fellows.. they were what turned a mere naked body int a proper social being
this is no coincidence.. it’s extraordinarily common in what i’ve been calling human econs.. money almost always arises first form objects what are used primarily as adornment of the person.. ie: beads, shells, feathers, teeth.. all are useless for any purpose other than making people look more interesting and hence more beautiful..
as a general rule.. it’s only when govts and then markets.. enter the picture that we begin to see currencies like barley, cheese, tobacco or salt
here too.. there was one dramatic exception.. a man could buy a slave, a woman kidnapped in a raid from a distant country.. slaves, after all, had no parents, or could be treated as if they didn’t; they had been forcibly removed from all those networks of mutual obligation and debt in which ordinary people acquired their outward id’s.. this was why they could be bought and sold..
perhaps a gen principle: to make something sale able, in a human econ.. 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.. only relation they had was to owners.. t
fitting with kids in school and people at work as well.. the death of us ness
hence.. the notion of ‘sphere’ .. in principle.. these 3 levels: ordinary consumption of goods, masculine prestige goods, and rights in women, .. were completely separate.. non trade able
in another way, it is unusually revealing, since the lack of any larger govt structure made it easier to see what was really happening.. the pervasive climate of violence led to the systematic perversion of all the institutions of existing human econs.. which were transformed into a gigantic apparatus of dehumanization and destruction
according to some contemp accounts.. a man who simple disliked his wife and was in need of brass rods.. could always come up w some reason to sell her, and the village elders.. who received a share of the profits.. would almost invariable concur..
the most ingenious trick of the merchant societies though was to assist in the dissemination of a secret society, called ekpe, which made its members complicit in their own potential enslavement
a neighbor’s goats or children would do just as well, since the whole point was to bring social pressure on whoever owed the money
the distinction between pawns and slaves had largely disappeared..
to be a slave was to be plucked from one’s fam, kin, friends, and community, stripped of one’s name, id, and dignity; of everything that made one a person rather than a mere human machine capable of understanding orders
except.. deeper.. ie: id, dignity, not really what we crave.. not really our essence.. they are more part of the stripping away than the legit us ness..
what is remarkable is that this was done, the bodies extracted, thru the very mechs of the human econ.. premised on principle that human lives are ultimate value.. to which nothing could possibly compare.. instead.. all the same institutions – fees for initiations, means of calculating guilt/compensation, social currencies, debt pawnship – were turned into their opposite; the machinery was, as it were.. gears, mechs designed for creation became means for destruction – of human beings..
one could find exact same things wherever human econs came into contact w commercial ones. (esp ones w advance military tech and an insatiable demand for human labor)..
reid insists that most of this was .. poor men take out loans for purpose of becoming debtors to wealthy who could provide food, roof, wife, et al.. important to point this out.. because one of effects of slave trade is that people often left w image of african continent as an irredeemably violent, savage place .. an image that has had disastrous effects on those who do live there
on bali.. before becoming famous paradise.. had been turned largely into a reservoir of the export of human beings.. entire island as apparatus for forcible extraction of women
began book w question: how is it that moral obligations come to be thought of as debts and end up justifying behavior that would otherwise seem utterly immoral?
began this chapter with answer: by making distinction between commercial/human econs.. where (human) money acts as social currency to create/maintain/sever relations between people rather than to purchase things
in human econ – each person is unique.. and of incomparable value.. each relation is unique.. objects (of exchange) such as raffia cloth or bundles of copper wire.. make one who one is – illustrated by way the objects used as social currencies are so often things otherwise used to clothe/decorate the human body.. that help make one who one is in the eyes of others..
in this sense.. term human econ is double edged.. thee are after all, *economies: that is, systems of exchange in which qualities are reduced to quantities.. allowing calcs of gain/loss..
we could have a legit human *econ.. sans the double edge.. sans the systems of exchange.. sans the calcs .. ie: oikos (the economy our souls crave).. ‘i should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.’ – gaston bachelard, the poetics of space
how is their calculability effectuated? how does it become possible to treat people as if they are identical? the lele ie gave us a hint: to make a human being an object of exchange, requires first of all *ripping her from her context; that is treating her away from that web of relation that makes her the unique conflux of relations that she is and thus, into a generic value capable of being added/subtracted and used as a means to measure debt.. this require s a certain violence
again.. take it deeper .. get to maté basic needs – a&a ness
to make her equiv to a bar of camwood takes even more violence, and it takes an enormous amount of sustained an systematic violence to rip her so completely from her context that she becomes a slave.. t
no reasonable man/woman would want to live in a place where neighbors don’t look after one another.. one must still ask.. how would community have reacted if they though she was beating him..
(after showing ideal pattern of bilateral cross cousin marriage – sometimes diagrams can be quite beautiful) human beings, left to follow their own desires, rarely arrange selves in symmetrical patterns. such symmetry tends to be bought at a terrible human price
price: the death of us
pattern: not symmetrical..
real point: certain sorts of violence were considered morally acceptable.. no neighbors would rush in to intervene if a guardian was beating runaway ward (woman). . and it as because women know that this is how their neighbors, or even parents, would react that ‘exchange marriage ‘ was possible.. this is what i mean by people ‘ripped from their contexts’
nonetheless.. there were mechs for forcibly removing young women from their homes. and it was precisly this that made them exchangeable..
banaz mahmod et al
the violence is preserved w/in the structure of the law.. t
and the structure of the whales
the crucial question: how common was this? the african slave trade was.. an unprecedented catastrophe but commercial economies had already been extracting slaves from human econs for 1000s of years.. it is a practice as old as civilization.. the question i want to ask is: *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.
*jensen civilization law et al
dislodging of people.. how to detox that subjection to the logic of debt..
slavery is just the logical end point.. the most extreme form of such disentanglement.. slavery has shaped our basic assumptions /institutions in ways that we are no longer aware of and whose influence we would probably never wish to acknowledge if we were.. if we have become a debt society, it is because the legacy of war, conquest ,and slavery has never completely gone away.. it’s still there, lodged in our most intimate conceptions of ***honor, property , even freedom.. it’s just that we can no longer see that it’s there..
he is tapping into deeper ness.. but referring to it as: **commitments, history, responsibility, ***honor, property, freedom.. not deep enough.. those to will be/cause/perpetuate the death of us
ch 7 starts 3372
ch 7: honor and degradation
can’t begin to think about such questions w/o taking into account the role of sheer physical violence..
because there is every reason to believe that slavery w its unique ability to rip human beings from their contexts, to turn them into abstractions, played a key role in the rise of markets everywhere
the death of us ness
the broad outlines can be reconstructed.. best way to do so is to start from a single, odd, vexed concept: the concept of honor, which can be teated as a kind of artifact, a fragment preserved from history that seems to compress into itself the answer to almost everything we’ve been trying to understand..
on the one hand.. violence: men who live by violence.. are almost always invariably obsessed w honor.. and assaults on honor are considered the most obvious justification for acts of violence..
in the other.. debt: debts of honor and honoring one’s debts.. transition form one to the other provides best clue to how debts emerge from obligations..
even more disturbingly.. since notion of honor makes no sense w/o the possibility of degradation.. reconstructing this history reveals how much our basic concepts of freedom/morlaity took shape w/institutions – notably, but not only – slavery – that we’d sooner not have to think about at all
on equiano’s book (1789) troubling because slave not opposed to slavery in early life.. why did it take him so long (to come to abolitionist position).. surely if anyone had reason to understand the evils of slavery, it was he.. the answer sees, oddly, to lie in the man’s very integrity.. to be made a slave is to be stripped of any possible honor
his problem was that honor is, by defn, 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. .
yeah.. see.. great.. if we could just replace honor with a & a
it strikes me that this experience of only being able to restore one’s lost honor, to regain the ability to act w integrity by acting in accord w the terms of the system that one knows, thru deeply traumatic personal experience, to be utterly unjust – is itself one of the most profoundly violent aspects of slavery.. t
getting to the deeper issues.. (even if i think we won’t truly get there if using words like honor, integrity)
it is another ie perhaps of the need to *argue in the master’s language, but here taken to insidious extremes.. t
yeah see.. i think needing to *argue in the master’s language is extreme at all leves.. it’s what makes us all whales et al
all societies based on slavery tend to be marked by this agonizing double consciousness: the awareness that the highest things one has to strive for are also ultimately wrong; but at some time, the feeling that this is simply the nature of reality..t
but also deeper.. ie: seeing all societies based on slavery
so.. to.. the death of us
*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.
*part\ial ness is killing all of us.. no more band aids..
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..t
slaves/whales = dead.. because st\ripped of context
one becomes a slave in situations where one would otherwise have died.
a slave couldn’t owe debts because was dead.. in roman law.. quite explicit.. lost liberty, family , possessions.. so if later regain freedom.. would have to start over.. remarry his widow et al
socially dead – he had accepted the contempt which deprived him of personality
this essential horror of slavery: the fact that it’s a kind of living death.. t
on hold ness et al
orlando paterson works out exactly what it has mean to be so completely and absolutely ripped form one’s context..
first of all he emphasizes.. 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.
second of all, being socially dead means that a slave has no binding moral relation s w anyone else.. he is alienated from ancestors, community, fam, clan, city; e cannot make contracts or meaningful promises.. except at whim of his master..
third, slave’s situation was one of utter degradation.. ie: the captive, having refused his one final chance to save his honor by killing himself, must recognize that he will now be considered and entirely contemptible being
yet.. at same time.. this ability to strip others of their dignity becomes, for the master, the foundation of his honor
seems that this is precisely what give honor its notoriously fragile quality.. men of honor tend to combine a sense of total ease and self assurance which comes w the habit of command, w a notorious jumpiness, a heightened sensitivity to slights and insults, the feeling that a man (and almost always a man) is somehow reduced, humiliated, if any ‘debt of honor’ is allowed to go unpaid
fitting with unoffendable ness
this is because honor is not the same as dignity.. one might even say: honor is surplus dignity
violent men, as we all know are almost invariably obsessed with honor.. dignity can be lost and therefore must be constantly defended..
the result is that to this day ‘honor’ has two contradictory meanings.. one – as simple integrity.. decent people honor their commitments.. one who speaks truth, obeys law, keeps promises is fair and conscientious in his commercial dealings
huge.. i don’t see these are contradictory.. i see them as same.. ie: commitments, obedience, law, promises, commercial dealings.. listed above as good side.. same as violence referred to below
his problem was that honor simultaneously means something else, which had everything to do w the kind of violence required to reduce human beings to commodities to begin with.. t
some of the most genuinely archaic forms of money we know about appear to have been used precisely as measures of honor/degradation: that is, the value of money was, ultimately the value of the power to turn others into money.. t
huge.. honor.. like money.. ie: value of power to turn others into degradation.. measure.. to dehumanize us
slave girl money – cumal – of medieval ireland – provides one dramatic illustration
by time earliest records kick in .. 600 ad.. the slave trade appears to have died off (ireland).. under severe disapproval of church.. why then were cumal still being used as units of account to tally up debts that were actually paid out in cows, cups, brooches, silver..wheats, oats.. and an even more obvious question: why women? there were plenty of male slaves in early ireland.. yet no one seems ever to have used them as money
appears to have been a near total absence of markets.. as a result, money was employed almost exclusively for social purposes: gifts, fees to craftsmen, drs, poets, judges, entertainers; various feudal payments
authors of law codes didn’t even know how to put price on most goods of ordinary use – pitchers, pillows chisels, slabs of bacon.. no one seems ever to have paid money for them
anyone needing a tool or furniture or clothing either went to a kinsman w the relevant craft skills or paid someone to make it.. the objects themselves were not for sale.. kings assigned tasks to diff clans: leather, poetry, shields.. precisely the sort of unwieldy arrangement that markets were later developed to get around
money could be loaned.. mainly though for paying fines.. the size of penalties usually has at least as much to do w the status of the victim as w nature of injury..
the key to the system was a notion of honor: literally ‘face’.. one’s honor was the esteem one had in the eyes of others.. honesty, integrity, character, but also one’s power, in the sense of the ability to protect oneself ones’ fam and followers .. from any sort of degradation or insult..
what was so unusual about celtic systems – esp irish – was that honor could be precisely quantified.. every *free person had his or her ‘honor price’: graded scale..price to pay for insult.. precisely defined..
unusual about irish.. it’s all spelled out so clearly.. partly because irish law codes were work of legal specialists who seem to have turned whole business into a form of entertainment.. whimsical/comical.. still.. as a result. the moral logic that lies behind any elab code of honor is laid out here in startling honesty
all this makes possible to understand nature of honor ie: slave girls kept as units for reckoning debts.. if one’s honor is ultimately founded on one’s ability to extract the honor of others makes prefect sense.. the value of a slave is that of the honor that has been extracted from them..
a washerwoman was the lowest of servants, and the one turned over in this case was to serve for life.. she was, in effect reduced to slavery. her permanent disgrace was the restoration of the abbot’s honor
honor is a zero sum game
what makes medieval irish laws seem so peculiar from *our perspective is that their exponents had not the slightest discomfort w putting an exact monetary price on human dignity.. things that ought to be considered beyond all possibility of quantification
really? to us? who’s *our/us?
it was the fact that it was still a human econ, in which money was used for social purposes.. that made it possible to create such an intricate system whereby it was possible not just to measure but to add/subtract specific quantities of human dignity.. and in doing so, provide us with a unique window into the true nature of honor itself..t
yeah.. honor.. another red flag we’re doing it/life wrong
the obvious question is: what happens to such an econ when people do begin to use the same money used to measure dignity to acquire eggs/haircuts? as the history of ancient meso and mediterranean world reveals.. the result was a profound and enduring moral crisis
meso – the origins of patriarchy
ancient greek, the word for honor was time
w rise of markets over next several centuries.. the meaning of he word time began to change.. on one hand.. became word for ‘price’ as in.. price of something one buys in market.. on other.. referred to a attitude of complete contempt for markets..actually this is still the case today: ‘in greece word ‘timi’ means honor.. which has been typically seen as the most important value in greek village society. honor is often characterized in greece as an open handed generosity and blatant disregard for monetary costs and counting.. and yet.. the same word also means ‘price’ as in the price of a pound of tomatoes..’
is honor the willingness to pay one’s monetary debts? or is it the fact that one does not feel that monetary debts are really that important? it appears to be both at same time..
masculine honor caught up in man’s ability to protect his women’s sexual reputations.. one historian.. found thru 50 yrs of police reports.. knife fights in 19th cent ionia.. virtually every one began when on party publicly suggested the other’s wife/sister was a whore..
what is it, then about the rise of money and markets that cause so many mean to become so uneasy about sex?
what happens, for ie when the same money once used to arrange marriages and settle affairs of honor can also be used to pay for the services of prostitutes? .. reason to believe.. that it is in such moral crises that we can find current conceptions of honor and of patriarchy itself..
earliest sumerian texts – 3000-2500 bc, women are everywhere… rulers, doctors, merchants, scribes, public officials,….
over course of next 1000 yrs.. all this changes.. place of women in civic life erodes; more patriarchal pattern takes shapes.. w emphasis on chastity/virginity.. disappearance of women’s role in govt and liberal professions, and loss of women’s independent legal status.. which renders them wards of heir husbands
much like problem w protest/rights today.. all those thing dehumanize us anyway.. so why fighting to have them just because men do? ie: civic, govt, profession, legal status..
more militarist the state.. harsher laws toward women.. but i’d add another.. war, states, markets all tend to feed off one another.. here in meso.. debt turned all human relations – and by extension, women’s bodies – into potential commodities
marriage was referred to as ‘taking possession’ of a woman, the same word one would uses for the seizure of goods.. in principle, a wife, once possessed, owed her husband strict obedience, and often could not seek a divorce even in cases of physical abuse..
however, for the poor – that is most people – marriage came more an more to resemble a simple cash transaction
a meso husband couldn’t sell his wife either.. still everything changed the moment he took out a loan.. since if he did, it was perfectly legal.. to use his wife/children as surety.. what this also meant was that honor and credit became, effectually the same thing: ..t.. at least for a poor man, one’s creditworthiness was precisely one’s command over one’s household.. for the poor, this meant that family members became commodities that could be rented or sold
honor ness.. red flag ness
deeyah khan ness
one could now hire out family members simply by taking out a loan..t
the most dramatic and enduring crisis entered on prostitution.. they were the ultimate embodiments of civilization.. machinery of the sumerian econ ostensibly exited to support the temples, which were considered households of gods.. rep’d ultimate possible refinement in everything living.. temple priestesses and spouses of the gods were the highest human incarnations of this perfect life..
sumerian men do not appear to have seen anything troubling about idea of sisters having sex for money.. sumerian religious texts id it as among the fundamental features of human civ.. a gift give by gods at dawn of time.. procreative sex was considered natural.. non procreative sex.. sex for pleasure, was divine.. this identification of prostitute and civilization..
(many came to be via) women escaping debt bondage w no place else to go..
origins of commercial prostitution appear to have been caught up in a peculiar mix of sacred (or once sacred) practice, commerce, slavery and debt
patriarchy originated in a rejection of the great urban civs in the nam of a kind of purity.. a reassertion of paternal control against great cities.. like babylon.. seen as places of Bs , traders, and whores..
gerda lerner: ‘another source for commercial prostitution.. pauperization of farmers.. .. dependence on loans.. which led to debt slavery.. women end up as prostitutes.. via being sold or seeking independence.. w luck .. they might be upwardly mobile thru becoming concubines.. prostitution well establishes as a likely occupation for the daughters of the poor.. as the sexual regulation of women of he propertied class became more firmly entrenched.. the virginity of respectable daughters became a financial asset for the family.. thus, commercial prostitution came to be seen as a social necessity for meeting the sexual needs of men’
mid assyrian (lerner) law code dating 1400-1100bc, 1st known reference to veiling in the history of the middle east.. first to make policing of social boundaries the responsibility of the state.. not surprising.. takes place under .. most notoriously militaristic state in entire ancient middle east.. the code carefully distinguishes among 5 classes of women:
led to systematic demotion of sexuality itself from a divine gift and embodiment of civilized refinement to one of its more familiar associations: w degradation, corruption and guilt
as result notions of honor changed too.. becoming a kind of protest against the implications of the market.. even at same time.. came to echo that market logic in endless subtle ways
all this arrived almost 3000 yrs later in greece.. so greek lit gives opp to observe the transformation
money existed but not used to buy anything .. important men lives lives in pursuit of honor.. which took material form in followers and treasure/gifts.. no doubt how time first came to mean both honor and price.. all to change dramatically when commercial markets developed 200 yrs later.. greek coinage – first use mainly to pay soldiers, fined, fees to govt… but by 600 bc every greek city-state producing owns (independent) coins.. didn’t take long till coins in used in everyday transaction.. agora.. public place also doubled as marketplace.. one of first effects.. a series of debt crises..
rather than institutionalize periodic amnesties.. greek cities tended to adopt legislation limiting/abolishing debt peonage.. then to forestall future crises.. would turn to a policy of expansion.. shipping off children of the poor to found military colonies overseas..
first/foremost.. it allowed even citizens of modest means to take part in political/cultural life of city/citizenship.. but this in turn drove aristocratic classes to develop more/more elab means of setting selves off from ‘tawdriness and moral corruption’ of the new democratic state
when curtain truly goes up on greece in 5th cent.. we find everybody arguing bout money.. for aristocrats (who wrote most of surviving texts) money was embodiment of corruption.. they disdained the market.. ideally a man of honor should be able to raise everything he needed on his own estates and never have to handle cash at all.. in practice they knew this was impossible.. tried to set selves apart from ordinary denizens of marketplace: gold; athletic contests; literate courtesans.. brothels often sponsored by demo polis itself as service to sexual needs of its male citizenry.. in each case.. they place a world of gifts, generosity, and honor above sordid commercial exchange..
man’s honor tied to disdain for commerce.. woman’s almost exclusively sexual – virginity, modesty et al.. to extend women were expected to be shut u in house and any who played part in public life was considered a prostitute.. expected to wear veils when they ventured out
money had passed from measure of honor to measure everything that honor was not.. one question not clear.. why? why had money become such a symbol of degradation.. was it all because of slavery? .. clearly not the case.. ie: ireland slave money – showed that utter degradation of a human being was in no sense a threat to heroic honor – in a way, it as its very essence..
such were perils of war.. essential to nature of martial/warrior honor.. willingness to play game on which he stakes everything.. grandeur directly proportional to how far he can fall..
rather.. the thing that really seemed to bother them about money was simply that they wanted it so much.. since money could be used to buy just about anything, everyone desired it.. that is.. it was desirable because everybody wanted it.. ie: porne particularly appropriate.. a woman ‘common to the people’ .. available to everyone.. in principle.. we shouldn’t be attracted to such a undiscriminating creature.. but we are.. and nothing was both so undiscriminating and so desirable as money
we might say then that money intro’d a democratization of desire.. insofar as everyone wanted money.. in pursuing some promiscuous substance.. but even more: increasingly they did not just want money.. they needed it.. this was a profound change.. in homeric world..as in most human econs.. we hear almost no discussion of those things considered necessary to human life (*food, shelter, clothing) because it is simply assumed that everybody has them.. even slaves had enough to eat.. here.. prostitute was potent symbol for what had changed.. fact that their basic needs could no longer be taken for granted were precisely what made them submit to others’ desire.. this extreme fear of dependency on others’ whims lies at the base of the greek obsession w the self sufficient household
what we need/crave: bachelard oikos law
*deeper\est needs: maté basic needs
this is certainly about the most ruthless and violent form of equality imaginable (saying people involve d in loans.. have to be equal to make them)
with appearance of money, it could also become unclear what was gift and what was a loan.. on one hand. even w gifts.. always considered best to return something slightly better .. on other hand.. friends don’t charge interest.. so what’s diff between a generous return gift and an interest payment
another subtler element.. mass production of coinage permitted a degree of anonymity for transactions.. pirates/kidnappers do business in cash – yet loan sharks at marketplace could not have operated w/o them.. it is on this same combo of illegal cash business.. usually involving violence and extremely harsh credit terms.. also enforced thru violence.. that innumerable criminal underworlds have been constructed since..
the language of money, debt, and finance provided powerful – and ultimately irresistible – ways to think about moral problems.. t
if debt was morality.. and at very least it was in interest of creditors.. who often had little legal recourse to compel debtors to pay up.. to insist that it was – what was one to make of the fact that money.. that very thing that seemed capable of turning morality into an exact/quantifiable science.. also seemed to encourage the very worst sorts of behavior
it’s only the existence of money, socrates suggests, ta tallows us to imagine words like power and interest refer to universal realities that can be pursed in their own right.. let alone that all pursuits are really ultimately he pursuit of power, advantage, or self interest.. the question he said is how to ensure those who hold office do so not for gain but for honor.. i will leave off here.. as we all know.. socrates eventually gets around to offering some political proposals of his own, involving philosopher kings; the abolition of marriage, the fam, and private property; selective human breeding boards (clearly the book was meant to annoy its readers and for more than 2000 yrs it has succeeded brilliantly)
what i want to emphasize thought is the degree to which what we consider our core tradition of moral/political theory today springs from this question: what does it mean to pay one’s debts?
we are left w a certainty that existing standards are incoherent and self contradictory and that some sort of radical break would be required in order to create a world that makes any logical sense.. but most of those who seriously consider a radical break along lines that plato suggested have come to the conclusion that there might be far worse things than moral incoherence.. and there we have stood, ever since, in the midst of an insoluble dilemma
prior to now
rudolf von jhering: ‘ancient rome conquered world 3 times.. thru: armies, religion, laws’
each time more thoroughly.. ie: roman catholic church has spread farther.. roman law has come to provide the language and conceptual underpinnings of legal and constitutional orders everywhere.. law students .. expected to spend a good deal of time memorizing tech terms in latin and it is roman law that provides almost all our basic conception about contract, obligation, torts, property, and jurisdiction – and in a broader sense.. of citizenship, rights, and liberties on which political life, too, is based
all the red flags
in roman law.. property or dominium, is a relation between a person and a thing.. characterized by absolute power of that person over that thing.. this defn has cause endless conceptual problems..
there’s no need to worry about property rights if no one else is there..
clearly then property is not really a relation between a person and a thing.. it’s an understanding of arrangement between people concerning things
rights.. rights.. the only thing absolute about my rights to a chainsaw is my right to prevent anyone else from using it..
nonetheless roman law does insist that the basic form of property is private property, and that private property is the owner’s absolute power to do anything he wants w his possessions.. 12th cent jurists refined this into 3: usus (use of a thing); fructus (enjoyment of thing); abusus (abuse/destruction of thing).. but roman jurists weren’t even interested in specifying that much, since , in a certain way, they saw the details as lying entirely outside the domain of law.. in fact, scholars have spent a great deal of time debating whether roman authors actually considered private property to be a right (ius) for the very reason that rights were ultimately based on agreements between people and one’s power to dispose of one’s property was not: it was just on’e natural ability to do whatever one pleased when social impediments were absent
how did this come about? and why? most convincing explanation i’ve seen is orland paterson’s: the notion of absolute private property is really derived from slavery..property as relation between 2 people where one is a thing (this is how slaves were defined in roman law: people who were also a res, a thing)
property as rights over thing once slavery made another person a thing
word dominium meaning absolute private property, was not particularly ancient.. only appears in latin in late republic.. right around time when 100s of 1000s of captive laborers were pouring into italy, and rome as a consequence, was becoming a genuine slave society.. by 50 bc, roman writers had come to simply assume that workers.. were someone else’s property.. the existence of millions of creatures who were simultaneously persons and things created endless legal problems, and much of the creative genius of roman law was spent in working out the endless ramifications
huge.. property.. slavery.. dehumanizaion .. rights.. all red flags we’re doing it/life wrong
many of these debates might strike us as profoundly exotic .. but our contemp tradition of jurisprudence is founded directly on such debates
as for dominium, word is derived from dominus meaning master/slave-owner, but ultimately from domus, meaning house/household.. it’s of course related the english term domestic.. which even now can be used either to mean ‘pertaining to private life’ or to refer to a servant who cleans the house.. comus overlaps somewhat in meaning w familia ‘family’ .. but as the proponents of family values might be interested to know, familia itself ultimately derives from the world famulus, meaning slave..
in creating notion of dominium then, and thus creating the modern principle of absolute private property, what roman jurists were doing first of all was taking a principle of domestic authority, of absolute power over people… defining some of those people (slaves) as things, and then extending that logic that originally applied to slaves to geese, chariots, barns.. et al.. that is to every other sort of thing that the law had anything to do with
history of rome.. like of early greek city states.. was one of continual political struggle between creditors/debts.. until roman elite eventually figured out the principle that most successful mediterranean elites learn: that a free peasantry means a more effective army, and that conquering armies can provide war captives who can do anything debt bondsmen used to do, and therefore a social compromise.. allowing limited popular rep, banning debt slavery, channeling some of fruits of empire into social welfare payments – was actually in their interest
rotc ness as habitus ness
presumably the absolute power of fathers developed as part of this whole constellation in the same way as we’ve seen elsewhere.. debt bondage reduce family relations to relations of property; social reforms retained the new power of fathers but protected them from debt..
what makes roman slavery so unusual in historical terms, was conjuncture of two factors.. one was its very arbitrariness.. in dramatic contrast w say, plantation slavery in the americas.. there as no sense that certain people were naturally inferior and therefore destined to be slave.. instead slavery was seen as a misfortune the could happen to anyone
as a result.. there as no reason that a slave might not be in every way superior to his/her master: smarter, finer sense of morality, better taste, greater understanding of philosophy.. the master might even be willing to acknowledge this.. there was no reason not to since it had no effect on the nature of the relationship.. which was simply one of power
liberty meant nothing outside of membership;in a community
the relation of dominus and slave thus brought a relation of conquest, of absolute political powers into the household (in fact .. made it the essence of the household)
freeborn: crime; slave: necessity; freedman: duty.. what is significant here is that the sexual subservience is considered the duty only of the freedman.. not of a slave.. this is because slavery was not a moral relation.. the master could do what he liked, and there was nothing the slave could do about it
the most insidious effect of roman slavery however, is that thru roman law, it has come to play havoc w our idea of human freedom
the meaning of the roman word libertas itself changed dramatically over time. as everywhere in the ancient world, to be free meant, first and foremost, not to be a slave.. since slavery means above all the annihilation of social ties and the ability to form them, freedom meant the capacity to make/maintain moral commitments to others.. the english word free for instance is derived from german root meaning friend, since to be free meant to be able to make friends, to keep promises, to live w/in a community of equals.. this is why freed slaves in rome became citizens: to be free, by defn, meant to be anchored in a civic community, w all the rights and responsibilities that this entailed
? oi.. so many red flags
by 2nd cent ad however, this had begun to change. the jurists gradually redefined libertas until it became almost indistinguishable from the power of the master.. it as the right to do absolutely anything, w the exception, again, of all those things one could not do
in digest, the defns of freedom and slavery appear back to back: ‘freedom is the natural faculty to do whatever one wishes that is not prevented by force/law.. slavery is an institution according to the law of nations whereby one person becomes private property (dominium) of another, contrary to nature..
in fact, the defn intro’s all sorts of complications.. if freedom is natural, then surely slavery is unnatural.. but if freedom and slavery are just matters of degree, then logically, would not all restrictions on freedom be to some degree unnatural? would not that imply that society, social rules, in fact even property rights, are unnatural as well?
yes.. all that.. unnatural
this is precisely what many roman jurists did conclude – that is, when they did venture to comment on such abstract matters, which was only rarely. originally, human beings lived in a state of nature where all things were held in common; it was war that first divided up the world, and the resultant ‘law of nation’ the common usages of mankind that reg such matters as conquest, slavery, treaties, and borders, that was first responsible for ineqs of property as well..
this in turn meant that there was no intrinsic diff between private property and political power – at least insofar as that power was based in violence
still, even in this new medieval world, the old roman concept of freedom remained.. freedom was simply power
this is a tradition that assumes that liberty is essentially the right to do what one likes w one’s own property. in fact, not only does it make property a right, it treats rights themselves as a form of property.. in a way, this is the greatest paradox of all.. we are so used to the idea of ‘having’ rights – that rights are something one can possess – that we rarely think about what this might actually mean.. in fact (as medieval jurists were well aware) one man’s right is simply another’s obligation..
historically, there is a simple – if somewhat disturbing – answer to this.. those who have argued that we are the natural owners of our rights and liberties have been manly interested in asserting that we should be free to give them away, or even to sell them.. modern ides of rights/liberties are derived from what came to be known as ‘natural rights theory’ from the time when jean gerson
it followed that there could be nothing intrinsically wrong with say, debt peonage, or even slavery. and this is exactly what natural rights theorist came to assert
abuses will exist in any system.. the important thing was that there was nothing inherently unnatural or illegit about the idea that freedom could be sold.. before long.. similar arguments came to be employed to justify the absolute power of the state.. thomas hobbes was first to really develop this in 17th cent.. but it soon became commonplace.. govt was essentially a contract, a kind of business arrangement, whereby citizens had voluntarily give up ;some of their natural liberties to the sovereign.. finally, similar ideas have become the basis of that most basic, dominant institution of our present econ life: wage labor, which is, effectively the renting of our freedom in the same way that slavery can be conceived as its sale
work via renting freedom; slavery via selling freedom
gare enslavement law et al
just as lawyers have spent 1000s yrs trying to make sense of property concepts.. philosophers to make sense of how to have a relation of domination over selves.. most popular solution: mind and body separate.. mind holds natural domination over body.. but this flies in face of everything w now know about cog sic.. (so) it’s obviously untrue, but we continue to hold onto it anyway.. for simple reason that none of our everyday assumptions about property, law and freedom would make any sense w/o it
embodiment (process of) et al
conclusions: 1st 4 ch’s describe dilemma: we don’t know how to think about debt.. trapped between happily bartering and debt is everything (substance of all human relations.. which leaves everyone w uncomfortable sense that human relations are somehow an intrinsically tawdry business..
this is why i developed concept of human econs: ones in which what is considered really important about human beings is the fact that they are each a unique nexus of relations w others.. therefore no one could ever be considered exactly equiv to anything or anyone else.. in human econ.. money is not a way of buying/trading human beings, but a way of expressing just how much one cannot do os
it is only by threat of sticks, ropes, spears, and guns that one can tear people out of those endlessly complicated webs of relationship w others (sisters, friends, rivals..) that render them unique, and thus reduce them to something that can be traded.. t
in human econs.. when this ability to rip people from their context does appear.. it is most often seen as an end in itself..
the squelching of one man’s individuality was seen as somehow swelling the reputation, the social existence, of the other… in what i’ve been calling heroic societies, of course, this kind of addiction and subtraction of honor/disgrace is lifted from a somewhat marginal practice to become the very essence of politics.. t
heroes become heroes by making others small..t this very ability to degrade others to remove unique human beings form the hearths/fams and thus render them anonymous units of accounting.. the irish slave girl currency, the welsh washer women – is itself the highest expression of honor.. in heroic societies, the role of violence is not hidden – it’s glorified..t
that such relations of intimacy can often develop between men of honor and those they have stripped of their dignity.. history can well attest.. annihilation of equality also elims debt.. of any relation other than power.. it allows a certain clarity.. why kings have notorious tendency to enjoy company of slaves..
something more here though.. king/slave are mirror images.. unlike normal humans who are defined by commitments to others.. they are defined only by relations of power.. they are as close to perfectly isolated, alienated being as one can possibly become
alienated/isolated from all the st\ripped from context ness
so.. defining selves as master and slave.. only way we can imagine ourselves as completely isolated beings.. t
ie: thomas jefferson.. owner of many slaves.. chose to being declaration of independence by directly contradicting the moral basis of slavery ‘we hold truths to be self evident.. that all men are created equal.. thus undercutting any argument that africans were racially inferior.. and that ancestors could have been justly/legally deprived of their freedom.. in doing so however, he did not propose some radically new conception of rights/liberties.. neither have subsequent political phioslophers.. for the most part, we’ve just kept the old ones. .but w the word ‘not’ inserted her and there..
most of our most precious rights/freedoms are a series of exceptions to an overall moral/legal framework that suggests we shouldn’t really have them in first place..
formally.. slavery has been eliminated, but (as anyone who works from 9-5 can testify) the idea that you can alienate your liberty, at least temporarily, endures..in fact it determines what most of us have to do for most of our waking hours.. except usually .. on weekends.. the violence has been largely pushed out of sight.. but this is largely because 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 starts 4352
ch 8: credit versus bullion
of course a cynic might argue we haven’t really abolished slavery.. just relabeled it
cynic? or alive/awake person.. gare enslavement law et al
the truly remarkable thing if one consults the historical record, is that slavery has been eliminated – or effectively eliminated – many times in human history
it is one of the great ironies of history that modern racism – probably the single greatest evil of our last two centuries – had to be invented largely because european continued to refuse to listen to the arguments of the intellectuals and jurists a and did not accept that anyone they believed to be a full and equal human being could ever be justifiably enslaved..
what all this suggests is that moments of historical opp – moments when meaningful change is possible – follow a distinct, even a cyclical pattern, one that has long been far more coordeinated across geographical space than we would ever haave imagined.. there is a shape to the past, and it is only by understandin it tha twe can begin to have sense of th ehistorical opps that exist in the present
also.. good bye cycle ness
the easiest way to make these cycles visible is to reexamine exactly the phenom we’ve been concerned w over the course of this book: the history of money, debt, and credit. the moment we begin to map the history of money across the last 5000 yrs of eurasian history, startling patterns begin to emerge.. in the case of money, one even stands out above all others: the invention of coinage
this wasn’t due to some sudden tech innovation: the techs used in making first coins were, in each case.. entirely diff.. ti was a social transformation.. why this happened in exactly this way i san historical mystery.. but this much we know.. in lydia, india, china.. local rulers decided credit systems no longer adequate and began to issue tiny pieces of metals.. to encourage their subjects to use them in day to day transaction
but then 600 ad slavery disappearing.. trend thrown into reverse.. cash dried up.. movement back to credit..
last 5000 yrs: alternation between credit and coin/bullion.. why? single most important factor would appear to be war.. bullion predominates, above all, in periods of generalized violence.. there is a very simple reason for that.. coins can be stolen
credit system tend to dominate in periods of relative social peace, or across networks of trust – so credit in peace, coins in war
ie: empires/meso, egypt, china (3500 bc ff): credit; axial/mediterranean, india, china, (800bc ff): coin; middle ages/medieval india, china, islam, christendom, (600 ad ff): credit; capitalist (1450 ad ff): coin; nixon (1971): credit (credits same as virtual throughout)
meso: money served largely as an accounting measure rather than physically changing hands..
heodotus: ‘to tell a lie is considered by them the greatest disgrace, and next to that to be in debt.. esp because they think that one in debt must of necessity tell lies’
the sum was, intentionally preposterous.. it was just an excuse to start a war.. still, hew wanted everyone to know that he knew exactly how to do the math (umma/lagash story in the trillion)
of math and men ness
as he (king) boasted ‘he instituted freedom in lagash.. restored child to mother.. canceled interest..’ this was very first such declaration we have on record.. and first time in history that the word freedom appears in a political doc..
over next several 1000 yrs this same list: canceling debts, destroying records, reallocating land – was to became the standard list of demands of peasant revolutionaries everywhere.. in meso rulers appear to have headed off the possibility of unrest by instituting such reforms themselves.. as a grand gesture of cosmic renewal
the history of debt/sin was wipe out and it was time to begin again.. but it’s also clear what they saw as alt: chaos.. overrun cities.. destroying everything
egypt: for most of its history, it manage to avoid the development of interest bearing debt entirely.. self contained.. more centralized than meso
loans in egypt were still moe likely to take form of mutual aid between neighbors.. to state matter simply: in meso interest bearing loans by palace and temple officials largely sub’d for lack of a comprehensive system of taxation.. in egypt this was not necessary
earliest mention of: debt prison..
china: far less B than western cousins.. no centralized temple/palace system and admins managing storerooms.. little incentive to create a single uniform unit of account.. converted to commercial in dealings between strangers..
usual uses for social currencies: marriage presents, fines, fees, and tokens of honor.. at any rate, all sources insist that there was a wide variety of currencies in circulation..
later chinese legends about origin of coinage ascribed the invention to emperors trying to relieve effects of natural disaster.. story is clearly fanciful.. (the real origins of coined money were at least 1000 yrs later).. but juxtaposition of lans and sale of children is suggestive, esp considering what was happening on other side of asia at exactly same time..
the guanzi later goes on to explain that these same rules instituted the custom of retaining 30% of harvest in public granaries for redistribution in emergeinecses.. so as to ensure no one would ever be reduced to such desperate straits gain.. in other words.. they began to set u just the kind of B storage facilities that, in places like egypt and meso, had been responsible for creating money as a unit of account to begin with
ch 9 starts 4568
ch 9: the axial age (800-600 bc)
karl jaspers coined axial age .. fascinated by fact that phythag, buddha, and confucious were all contemporaries.. each group apparently unaware of the others’ existence.. like the simultaneous invention of coinage.. why this happened has always been a puzzle.. jaspers suggested.. must have been an effect of similar historical conditions
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;
(on philosophers developed all the major positions on nature of cosmos, mind, et al) as one of jaspers’ disciples later put it ‘no really new ideas have been added since that time’..
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
a typical sumerian farmer may well have never had occasion to hold a substantial piece of silver in his hand except perhaps at his wedding.. most precious metal took form of wealthy women’s anklets and heirloom chalices presented by kings to their retainers.. or simply stockpiled in temples.. as sureties for loans.. somehow during axial age.. al this began to change.. large amts of silver, gold, an copper were dethesaurized, as the econ historians like to say; it was removed form temples and house of rich and placed in hands of ordinary people, was broken into tinier pieces, and began to be used in everyday transactions..
how? david schaps provides most plausible suggestions: most of it was stolen.. this was a period of generalized warfare, and it is in the nature of war that precious things are plundered.. ‘..a long term standing army will tend to accumulate many things that are valuable and portable.. and the most valuable/portable items are precious metals/stones.. if plunder brought precious metal into hands of soldiers.. market will have spread it thru population’
war/plunder nothing new.. but.. what axial age saw.. was rise of a new kind of army, made up not of aristocratic warriors and their retainers, but trained professionals.. an army of trained mercenaries needs to be rewarded in some meaningful way
existence of markets.. highly convenient for govts.. no just because made it easier to provision large standing armies.. but by insisting only their coins were acceptable as fees, fines, taxes, bots were abel to overwhelm the innumerable social currencies that already existed.. and estab something like uniform national markets
in the extraordinary violence of the axial age.. 40 000 said to have committed mass suicide rather than surrender.. 10 000 died in battle.. 30 000 survivors sold to slavery.. 100s of 1000s raped/slaughtered.. 50 000 put on auction block.. city razed.. all this may bring home something of the level of violence amidst which axial age developed.. but it also leaves us asking: what exactly was the ongoing relation among coinage, military power, and this unprecedented outpouring of ides.?
mediterranean: history begins w a series of deb crises.. in athens first crisis culminated in solon’s reforms of 594 bs.. so early that coinage could hardly have been a factor.. room too.. rather, in each case, coinage became a solution
might say these conflicts had 2 possibles outcomes: 1\ aristocrats win, poor remain slaves of rich.. generally militarily ineffective.. 2\ popular factions prevail.. redistribution of lands and safeguards against debt peonage.. create basis for class of free farmers.. whose children free to spend much of their time training or war…
coinage played critical role in maintaining this kind of free peasantry.. secure in landholding, not tied to lords by bonds of debt.. threw money at problem.. gold/silver acquired in war, or mined by slaves captured in war.. mints in temples.. city sates developed endless ways to distribute coins.. to soldiers, those producing arms.. jury fees.. and just outright distributions.. and coins them served as legal tender for all payments
was slavery that made all this possible.. enormous numbers of people enslaved.. and many slaves ended up working in mines, producing even more metals.. geoffrey ingahm calls resulting system ‘military coinage complex’.. though i think even better: ‘military coinage slavery complex’.. anyway.. that describe rather nicely how it worked in practice
expeditionary forced needed to be paid and paid well.. so system of mines/mints had to be re org’d around providing for the invading army.. and mines worked by slaves.. who were war captives.. one can see how this process might feed upon itself..
on releasing accumulated specie of century onto the market in a matter of months.. in contemp terms $285 billion
same ultimate decision: use agri loans to turn population into bonded laborers or debt protection to preserve a free peasantry and employ younger sons of free farm families as soldiers.. practically had to force to take imperial option.. over time.. gradually legislated into being welfare system that recycled spoils to soldiers, veterans and their families.. again.. coinage minted from war spoils didn’t cause the crisis.. it was used as a solution
rotc ness and jubilee/new deal ness (as cancer and partial solutions)
entire roman empire at its height could be understood as vast machine for extraction of metals and their coining/distribution to military.. combined w taxation policies designed to encourage conquered populations to adopt coins in their everyday transactions
in areas w neither mines/military.. credit systems continued
cycles: solve debt crisis thru military expansion till back to debt crisis.. more acute where no mech short of outright revolution.. to declare a meso style clean slate..
w/o free peasantry to form basis for army.. state forced to rely more and more on arming/employing germanic barbarians from across the imperial frontiers.. w results that need hardly be recalled here
kingdoms, on other hand, were founded on a fundamentally new institution: a trained, professional army, open to young men of a wide variety of backgrounds, their equip supplied by central authorities (soldiers were obliged to check their arms/armor when the entered cities( and provided w generous salaries..
whatever their origins, here too, coins and markets sprung up above all to feed the machinery of war..t
(kautilya’s arthasastra) stated the matter precisely: ‘the treasury is based upon mind, the army up the treasury; he who has army and treasury may conquer the whole wide earth’
they were inevitably accompanied by a range of diff sorts of camp followers – petty traders, prostitutes and hired servants – which, ,w the soldiers, seems to have been the very medium thru which a cash econ had originally taken form
military/violence in order to acquire power/dominance.. at core of it all
thus was the market econ, born of war, gradually taken over by govt.. t
the result was a monetarization of daily life.. t unlike anything india was to see for another 2000 yrs
w their armies, spies, and admins controlling everything.. t
spies and/as inspectors of inspectors
king (265 bc indian republic) so disturbed and haunted by carnage that he renounced war altogether.. embraced buddhism and declared nonviolence.. ‘no living being must e killed/sacrificed’.. can’t be taken literally: asoka might have replaced sacrificial ritual w vegetarian feasts, but he didn’t abolish army, abandon capital punishment, or even outlaw slavery.. but his rule marked a revolutionary shift in ethos.. aggressive war was abandoned, and much of the army does seem to have been demobilized.. along w network of spies and stat Bs.. w result that over next centuries 1000s of stupas and monasteries were built across the subcontinent
asoka’s reforms useful.. they help reveal just how mistaken some of our basic assumptions are: particularly that money equal coins, and that more coins in circulation means more commerce and a greater role for private merchants.. in reality.. magadha state promoted markets but had been suspicious of private merchants (competitors).. merchants had been among earliest and most ardent supporters of the new religions.. result was not an increase in use of cash in everyday affairs but exactly the opposite..
early buddhist econ attitudes have long been considered a puzzle.. 1\ monks could not own property 2\ buddhism suspicious of metals.. had always had liberal attitude toward credit.. one of few religion that has never formally condemned usury (high interest lending).. taken in context of times.. nothing mysterious.. makes perfect sense for a religious movement that rejected violence/militarism, but was in no way opposed to commerce
china: period of chaos preceded unification followed typical axial age patter: sam fractured political landscape, same rise of trained, professional armies, and creation of coined money largely in order to pay them
in china, while many of the founders of the ‘hundred schools’ of philosophy that blossomed under the warring states were wandering sages who spent their days moving from city to city trying to catch the ears of princes, others were leaders of social movements from the very start. some of these movements didn’t even have leaders, like the school of the tillers, an anarchist movement of peasant intellectuals who set out to create egalitarian communities in the cracks and fissures between states..
materialism 1 – the pursuit of profit:
the axial age was first time in human history when familiarity w the written word was not longer limited to priests, admins, and merchants but had become necessary to full participation in civic life..
w/o mass literacy, neither the emergence of mass intellectual movements nor the spread of axial age ideas would have been possible.
or so we think/thought.. lit & num as colonialism et al
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
(note written from first read) last two adds (italicized) – 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
all of which must inevitably have found some echoes in the new spirit of rational inquiry that begins to appear in all the same times/places..
previously used math calculations/rational/ratio… 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.
but none, as far as we know, were so impressed that they concluded, like pythag, that math ratios were the key to understanding the nature of the universe and the movement of celestial bodies.. and that *all things were ultimately composed of numbers and they certainly hadn’t formed secret societies based on sharing this understanding, debating and purging and excommunicating one another
*of math and men.. leading to dehumanization/excommunication/separation et al
to understand what had changed need to look at kind of markets emerging at begin of axial age: impersonal markets born of war.. in which it was possible to treat even neighbors as if they were strangers
even if it is also a strategic move designed to ensure loyalty.. and act of magnificence meant to remind everyone else that he is great and the retainer small.. there is no sense of contradiction here.. similarly, gifts between equals are usually fraught w many layers of love, envy, pride, spite, communal solidarity or any of a dozen other things.. speculating on such matters is a major form of daily entertainment.
resonating with – judging motives being our downfall.. again – not listening to own heart
early credit markets.. 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
lu: ‘when all one’s enemies consider running (rather than fighting) to be the most profitable thing to do, no blades will cross.. this is the most essential point in military matters (profit over all else)’
everything was cast as a mater of recognizing interest and advantage..
predominant school of political thought under the warring states was that of the legalists (ruler’s interests above all).. the people could be easily manipulated.. since they had same motivations.. shang: ‘people’s pursuit of profit is utterly predictable’ shang was harsher than most.. he believed that widespread prosperity would ultimately harm the ruler’s ability to mobilize his people for war.. and therefor that terror was the most efficient instrument of governance.. but even he insisted that this regime be clothed as a regime of law and justice..t
structural violence et al
kautilya was no diff: title of his book arthasastra is usually translated ‘manual of statecraft’ since it consists of advice to rulers, but its more literal translation is ‘the science of material gain’.. like the legalists.. kautilya emphasized the need to create a pretext that governance was a matter of morality/justice, but in addressing the rulers themselves.. he insisted that ‘war and peace are considered solely from the pov of profit’..t.. of amassing wealth to create a more effective army, of using the army to dominate markets and control resources to amass more wealth and so on..
on thucydides’ melian dialogue: previously friendly city presented w elegantly reasoned argument for why its to advantage of their empire to threaten them w collective massacre if not willing to become tribute paying subjects..
as is often case.. oppositional intellectual were faced w two choices: 1\ adopt reigning terms of debate 2\ try to come up w a diametrical inversion
a nother way ness – horse of diff color.. and not a horse
his (mo di) conclusion: if one could add up total costs of aggression in human lives, animal lives, material damage, one would be forced to the conclusion that they never outweighed the benefits – even for the victor.. in fact, mo di took logic so far he ended up arguing that only way to optimize overall profit of humanity was to abandon the pursuit of private profit entirely an adopt a principle of what he called ‘universal love’.. essentially arguing that if one takes the principle of market exchange to its *logical conclusion, it can only lead to a kind of communism
still.. end point roughly the same.. the confucian ideal of ren, of humane benevolence, was basically just a more complete inversion of profit seeking calculation than mo di’s universal love.. main diff was that the confucians added a certain aversion to calculation itself.. preferring what might almost be called an art of decency.. taoists were later to take this even further w their embrace of intuition and spontaneity..
all were so many attempts to provide a mirror image of market logic.. still, a mirror image is, ultimately, just that: the same thing, only backwards.. before long in each cases end up w endless maze of paired opposites: egoism/altruism, profit/charity, materialism/idealism, calculation/spontaneity.. none of which could ever have been imagined except by someone starting out from pure, calculating, self interested market transactions
materialism 2 –
here anthropology can be helpful.. as anthro’s have unique advantage of being able to observe how human beings who have not previously been part of these convos react when first exposed to axial age concepts
but we need to go back further.. before whales
every now and then too, we are presented w moment of exceptional clarity: ones that reveal the essence of our own thought to be almost exactly the opposite of what we thought it to be
maurice leenhardt missionary experienced such a moment when asked one of his students.. boesoou.. an aged sculptor how he felt about having been intro’d to spiritual ideas: he objected, ‘spirit, bah.. you didn’t bring us the spirit. we already knew the spirit existed. we have always acted in accord w the spirit.. what you’ve brought us is the body’
huge.. it’s the basis of why we don’t need people telling other people what to do.. what to think.. what to know.. the essentials are already in us – what we need is time/space to listen to that (rather than other people teaching/preaching et al)
the notion that humans had souls appeared to boesoou to be self evident.. the notion that there was such a thing as the body apart from the soul, a mere material collection of nerves and tissues.. let alone that the body is the prison of the soul.. that the mortification of the body could be a means to the glorification or liberty of the soul.. all this.. it turns out struck him as utterly new and exotic
and toxic (embodiment (process of) ness et al
axial age spirituality then is built on a bedrock of materialism.. this is its secret; one might almost say, the thing that has become invisible to us
miletus was also the commercial center of he region and perhaps.. the first city in the world where everyday market transactions came to be carried out primarily in coins instead of credit.. greek philosophy in turn, begins w 3 men.. in other words.. men who were living in that city at exactly the time that coinage was first intro’d.. all there are remembered chiefly for their speculations on the nature of the physical substance form which the world ultimately sprang (water, air, unlimited material – apeiron)
it was something that could turn into everything.. as seaford emphasizes.. so was money
seaford refers to this extra value by the inelegant term fiduciarity’ which comes form the term for public trust, the confidence a community places in its currency.. this is the key to seaford’s argument about materialism and greek philosophy. a coin was piece of metal, but by giving it a particular shape, stamped w words and images, the civic community agreed to make ti something more.. but this power was not unlimited..
a tree is a living thing. it only becomes ‘wood’ when we begin to htink about al lthe toher things you could carve out of it
problem is that this collective power is not unlimited.. it only really applies w/n the city. the farther you go outside, into places dominated by violence, slavery,, and war.. the sort of place where even philosophers taking a cruise might end up on the auction block.. the more it turns into a mere lump of precious metal..
the war between spirit and flesh then between the noble idea and ugly reality, the rational intellect vs stubborn corporeal drives and desires that resist it, *even the idea that peace and community are not things that emerge spontaneously but that need to be stamped onto our base material natures like a divine insignia stamped into base metal – all those ideas that came to haunt the religious and philosophical tradition of the axial age.. and that have continued to surprise people like boesoou ever since can already be seen as inscribed in the nature of this new form of money
yeah that .. esp *that – but even before (deeper than) people like boesoou
(in 8 part summary of back and forth ness of market/state/war/religion being separate and merging)
6: we have already seen that reimagining moral responsibility in terms of debt – while almost inevitable given the new econ circumstances, seems to prove uniformly unsatisfying.. the strong impulse is to imagine another world where debt – and w it all the other worldly connections – can be entirely annihilated, where social attachments are seen as forms of bondage, just as the body is a prison
8: pure greed and pure generosity are complementary concepts; neither could really be imagined w/o the other; both could only arise in the institutional contexts that insisted on such pure and single minded behavior; and both seem to have appeared together where impersonal, physical, cash money also appeared on the scene
yeah.. why gift\ness keeps messing with us
as for religious movements: .. convincing the rich that all they really owed the poor were occasional charitable donations..
as i’ve already observed.. physical escape, such as via exodus or defection, has always been the most effective response to oppressive condition since the earliest times we know about.. where physical escape is not possible.. what exactly is an oppressed peasant supposed to do? sit and contemplate her misery? at the ver least.. otherworldly religions provided glimpses of radical alts
i’ve not seen and legit radical alts
often they allowed people to create other worlds w/in this one, liberated spaces of one sort or another..
it is surely significant that the only people who succeeded in abolishing slavery in the ancient world were religious sects.. who did so by defecting form larger social order and forming own utopian communities
haven’t seen anyone legit abolish slavery
but the buddha admired the democratic org of their public assemblies and adopted it as the model for his followers.. buddhist monasteries are still called sangha, ancient name for such republics and continue to operate by same consensus finding process to this day, preserving a certain egalitarian democratic ideal that would otherwise have been entirely forgotten
wars became less brutal/frequent.. slavery faded as an institution, to the point at which, by the middle ages, it had become insignificant or even nonexistent
? neither.. gare enslavement law et al
ch 10 starts 5167
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
if the axial age saw the emergence of complementary ideals of commodity markets and religions.. middle ages were period where those two began to merge
medieval india – flight to hierarchy
decline of cities.. travelers describe india as a land of endless tiny villages
as result.. historians write of collapse of money eon and ‘reversion to barter’.. here too, this appears to be sim;.y untrue.. what vanished were the military means to extract resourced form the peasants.. in fact hindu law books at time show increasing attention to credit arrangements w *sophisticated language of sureties, collateral, mortgages, promissory notes and compound interest
how buddhist establishments popping up all over india were funded.. while earliest monks were wandering mendicants, owning little more than their begging bows, early medieval monasteries we often magnificent establishments w vast treasures.. still in principle.. operations financed almost entirely thru credit..
key motivation was creation of ‘perpetual endowments’ .. interest on loan 15%.. never touched.. lasts forever..
in most cases.. money was accounting unit.. what really transacted – animals, wheat et al.. w rates of interest carefully stipulated
what we now see as villages appears to have been largely a creation of early mid ages.. 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.
much of india was governed by foreigners..
1000ad – islam appeared in india (5285) – 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… they did it above all by seizing control of the admin of law..
brahmins duty was to stand in for all humanity before the forces that controlled universe.. far from being required to attain learning, members of the inferior classes were forbidden to do so
Artisans and craftsmen fleeing the decline or destruction of cities often ended up as suppliant refugees and, gradually, low-caste clients.
refugees provided services for landowning castes.. but also protected local communities from actual royal re’s.. this latter function is crucial.. foreign visitors were later to be awed by the self sufficiency of the traditional indian village.. w its elab system of castes.. all arranged in hierarchical order.. each making own unique/necessary contribution to their little society.. (barbers, smiths, tanners, drummers, etc).. operating entirely w/o use of metal currency..
while brahmins were themselves forbidden to lend money at interest.. temples were not.. can observe in earliest of the new law codes.. local authorities struggling to reconcile old customs like debt peonage and chattel slavery w the desire to establish and overarching hierarchical system in which everyone knew their place
need a means to undo our hierarchical listening
several generations of same fam have been reduced to position of hereditary ploughmen in consideration of some paltry sum advance to them
by about 1000 ad ..restrictions of usury by member of upper cases in hindu law codes largely disappeared.. on other hand.. same time that islam appeared in india.. a religion dedicated to eradication usury altogether..
the very idea of caste, which was that the universe was a vast hierarchy in which diff sorts of people were assume to be fundamentally diff natures, that these ranks and grades were fixed forever, and that when goods and services moved up and down the hierarchy, the followed not principles of exchange at all but (as in all hierarchical systems) custom and precedent
lous dumont made famous argument that one cannot even really talk about ineq here, because to use the phrase implies that one believe people should or could be equal, and this idea was completely alien to hindu conceptions.. for them to have imagined their responsibilities as debts would have been profoundly subversive, since debts are by defn arrangements between equals..
Politically, it is never a particularly good idea to first tell people they are your equals, and then humiliate and degrade them..t
this is presumably why peasant insurrections, from chiapas to japan, have so regularly aimed to wipe out debts rather than focus on more structural issues like caste systems or even slavery
debt peonage it would appear is far more likely to inspire outrage and collective action than is a system premised on pure ineq
china: buddhism (the econ of infinite debt)
china might be said to rep the opp extreme.. the one place where a late axial age attempt to yoke empire and religion together was a complete success
max weber long ago pointed out, once one sets up a genuinely effective B, it’s almost impossible to get rid of it.. and the chinese B was uniquely effective..
partly an effect of size: the empire and its internal market were so huge that foreign trade was never esp important; therefore those running the govt were well aware they could turn pretty much anything into money, simply by insisting that taxes be paid in that form..
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.
what’s more, such uprisings were frequently successful.. most of the most famous chinese dynasties that were not the product of barbarian invasion were originally peasant insurrections.. in no other part of the world do we see anything like this.. as a result, chinese statecraft ultimately came down to funneling enough resources to the cities to feed the urban pop and keep; the nomads at bay, w/o causing a notoriously contumacious (stubbornly rebellious) rural pop to rise up in arms
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.
meant in practice .. they (china) were pro market but anti capitalist..
this seems bizarre, since we’re used to assuming that capitalism and markets are the same thing, but as .. fernand braudel pointed out in may ways they could equally well be conceived as opposites.. while markets are ways of exchanging good thru the medium of money.. capitalism for braudel is first and foremost the art of using money to get more money..
normally, easiest way to do this is by establishing some kind of formal or defacto monopoly.. for this reason.. capitalists..invariably try to ally themselves w political authorities.. to limit the freedom of the market,
in confucian terms.. merchants were like soldiers.. career in military driven by love of violence.. not good people but necessary to defen the frontiers.. merchants driven by greed and basically immoral; yet if kept under careful admin supervision.. could be made to serve public good.. whatever one might think of the principles, results hard to deny.. for most of its history, china maintained the highest standard of living in the world
depends who’s defining standard-of-living.. no?
confucianism not precisely a religion..more ethical/philosophical system.. but china not a complete departure (from commerce under control of religion).. ie: buddhism in same period.. outbreaks of passionate religious fervor.. 1000s of young people would renounce farms, shops, fams to see ordination as monks/nuns.. pledged entire fortunes to propagation of the dharma
by mid 5th cent.. dozens of such spectacular suicides..
passions unleashed provided a dramatic alt to staid orthodoxy of confucian literati, but also surprising .. to say the least.. to see this in a religion promoted above all by the commercial classes..
jacques gernet observes: ‘clear that these suicides, so contrary to traditional morality aimed to redeem sins of all beings, to compel gods and men at one and same time.. ‘
in human econs.. does not appear to have occurred to anyone that any act could be either purely selfish or purely altruistic..
hence.. makes a certain sorts of sense that suicide be conceived as ultimate selfless gift.. yet this is the door that necessarily opens as soon as one develops a notion of ‘profit’ and then tries to conceive its opposite..
buddhism, which, true to its commercial origins, retained a striking tendency to employ the language of the marketplace ‘one purchase felicity, and sells one’s sins just as in commercial operations’ wrote one monk
but in reality, we are all insolvent debtors, because acquiring the money to repay our temporal debts necessarily means acquire new, spiritual ones, since every means of acquiring wealth still necessarily involve exploiting, damaging and causing suffering to other living beings
‘some use their power/authority as officials in order to bend law and seize wealth.. some prosper in marketplace.. they engage in an excess of lies and cheat and extort profits form others.. still others.. farmers, burn the mtns and marshes, flood the fields, plough and mill, destroying the nests and burrows of animals’
there is no avoiding the fact of our past debts, and it is difficult to comprehend the number of separate lives it would require if you wanted to pay them one by one
one might almost call this (story of poor man begging forgiveness for late payment by saying he will give all he earns back.. forever) salvation on the installment plan.. but the implication is that the payments shall be made.. like the interest payments on the wealth when it is subsequently loaned out, for all eternity
a mother’s kindness is unlimited, her selflessness absolute; this was seen to be embodied above all in the act of breastfeeding, transform very flesh/blood into milk.. feed children w own bodies.. in doing so however they allow unlimited love to be preciously quantified.. one author calculated that the avg infant absorbs precisely 180 pecks of mother’s milk in its first 3 yrs of life.. and his constitutes its debt as an adult. the figure soon became canonical.. to repay this milk debt, or indeed one’s debt to one’s parents moe generally, was simply impossible
whoa – so un resonating.. i ache for their happiness.. last thing i want is to be cause of stress/indebtedness (though as well.. i know i’ve caused/created conditions for their stresses)
the solution, however is the same: donating money to the inexhaustible treasuries.. the result was an elab cycle of debs and forms of redemption.. begins w an unpayable milk-debt
one can thus repay one’s parents by bringing them to buddhism; can be done even after death.. donation to treasuries in her name.. in meantime.. money will be put partly to work as charity, as pure gift, but partly too, as interest bearing loans.. earmarked for specific purposes for the furtherance of buddhist ed, ritual, or monastic life..
chinese buddhist approach to charity.. festivals/outpourings of contributions w wealthy adherents vying in generosity.. a kind of econ self immolation that paralleled the spectacular monastic suicides..
one practice that hovered between charity and business was providing peasants w alts to the local moneylender
microfinance ness – bandaids perpetuating cancer
finally.. business of monastery itself: portion of treasury turned over to management of lay brothers, and either put out at loan or invested.. since monks not allowed to east products of own fields.. fruit/grain put to market further swelling monastic revenues.. most monasteries came to be surrounded not only by commercial farms but veritable industrial complexes of oil presses, flour mills, shops and hostels, often w 1000s of bonded workers..
at time.. treasuries became.. world’s first genuine forms of concentrated finance capital.. enorm concentration of wealth managed by .. monastic corps.. which were constantly seeking new opps for profitable investment.. they even shared capitalist imperative of continual growth.. treasuries had to expand since according to mahayana doctrine.. genuine liberation would not be possible until whole world embraced the dharma..
this was precisely the situation – huge concentrations of capital interested in nothing more than profit – that confucian econ policy was supposed to prevent..
govt attitudes veered back and forth.. 1\ in chaotic yrs of middle ages monks were welcomed – given generous land grants and provided w convict laborers to reclaim forests and marshes, and tax exempt status for their business enterprises
as time when on though.. 2\ admins turned from seeing monks as a boon to rural society to its potential ruination.. decrees condemning monks for diverting grain that was supposed to be used for charitable purposes to high interest lans.. and altering debt contracts.. govt commission had to be appointed to reg when interest found to have exceeded principal
curing most severe 845 ad – 4600 monasteries razed.. 260 000 monks/nuns forcibly defrocked and returned to fams.. but at same time.. 150 000 temple serfs released from bondage
whatever real reasons behind the waves of repression.. (and these were no doubt many).. the official reason was always the same: a need to restore the money supply..t
it perhaps stands to reason that chinese buddhism, a religion of merchants that then took popular roots, should have developed in this direction: a genuine theology of debt, self sacrifice.. that ultimately led to collectively managed finance capital.. the reason that result seems so weird.. so full of paradoxes, is that it is again an attempt to apply the logic of exchange to questions of eternity
*exchange, unless it’s an instantaneous cash transaction, creates debts.. debts linter over time. if you imagine all human relations as exchange, then insofar as people have ongoing relation w one another.. those relations are laced w debt/sin.. only way out is to annihilate the debt.. but then social relation vanish too.. this is quite in accord w buddhism.. whose ultimate aim is attainment of ’emptiness’ absolute liberation.. annihilation of all human/material attachments, since these are all ultimately causes of suffering..for mahayana buddhists however.. absolute liberation cannot be achieve by any one being independently; liberation of each depend on all the others; **therefore until end of time.. such matters are in a certain sense always in suspension
in meantime.. exchange dominates: even acts of charity and self sacrifice are not purely generous; one is purchasing ‘merit’ from the bodhisattvas…
notion of infinite debt comes in when this logic slams up against the absolute or.. against something that *utterly defies the logic of exchange.. because there are things that do.. ie: odd urge to first quantify exact amount of milk one has absorbed via mother.. and then say no conceivable way to repay it .. exchange implies interaction between equiv beings.. your mother.. is not an equiv being.. closest can come to repayment is simply recognize that fact.. such recognition is the true meaning of sacrifice.. like rospabe’s original money, a sacrificial offering is not a way to pay a debt, but a way to acknowledge the impossibility of the idea that there could ever by repayment
i’ve also argued that any system of exchange is always necessarily found on something else, something that, in its social manifestation at least, is ultimately communism.. w all those things we treat as eternal.. that we assume will always be there – our mothers’s love, true friendship, sociality, humanity, belonging,.. the existence of the cosmos – no calculation is necessary or ever ultimately possible; inso fare as there is give and take, they follow completely diff principles
david on communism – exchange founded on communism ness?
infinite pool of redemption.. basis for actual material funds of monasteries.. which are equally eternal.. as a pragmatic form of communism.. center of vast projects of human cooperation.. similarly eternal.. yet at same time.. via gernet: ‘this communism because basis in turn of something very much like capitalism’.. reason above all the need for constant expansion.. everything.. even charity was an opp to proselytize.. the dharma had to grow.. to encompass everyone/everything in order to effect the salvation of all living beings
again.. spot on w the everything ness.. not so much w the communism ness defined in terms of exchange/growth/proselytizing
tallies not just for lans but for any sort of contract.. concerned w dangers of carrying bullion over ong distances, began to deposit money w bankers .. devises system of promissory notes.. called ‘flying cash’.. operating like currency.. govt first tried to forbid their use.. then when realized could not suppress them.. switched gears and establishes a bureau empowered to issue such notes themselves..
bauwens contracts law et al..
many notes came to circulate as de facto money.. before long.. aided by newly invented printing press. govt monopoly operating factories in several cities employing thousands of workers and producing millions of notes.. at first..this paper money was meant for limited time.. expire after 2-7 yrs..
important to note because conventional account tends to rep china’s experiment w paper money as failure.. as proof that ‘fiat money’ backed only by state power will always eventually collapse.. this is esp odd, since centuries when paper money was in use are usually considered most econ dynamic in chinese history..
main point – almost all forms of paper money not originally created by govts.. were simply ways of recognizing/expanding use of credit instruments that emerged from everyday econ transactions.. if it was only china that developed paper money in med ages.. was largely because only in china was there a govt large/powerful enough.. but also, sufficiently suspicious of its mercantile classes.. to feel it had to take charge of such operation itself.
the near west: islam (capital as credit)
diff between christianity and islam almost negligible.. essentially, scholars doing same work of trying to square the revealed religion tradition.. w categories of greek philosophy and doing so in a larger context of mercantile capitalism.. universalistic missionary religion, sci rationalism, poetic celebrations of romantic love, and periodic waves of fascination w mystical wisdom from the east.. from world historical perspective.. seems more sensible to see judaism, christianity and islam as three diff manifestations of the same great western intellectual tradition
prevailing islamic attitude toward law/govt/econ.. was exact opp of china.. confucians were suspicious of governance thru strict codes of law.. preferring to rely on inherent sense of justice of cultivated scholar.. a scholar who was simply assumed to also be a govt official.. medieval islam.. on other hand.. embraced law.. seen as religious institution .. but tended to view govt as an unfortunate necessity.. best to avoid
peculiar nature of islamic govt.. military leaders always saw selves as people of the desert.. and never felt entirely part of the urban civs they had come to rule.. this discomfort took a long time to overcome- neither side.. several centuries.. and even when did (convert to conquerors religion) never seem to have really id’d w their rules.. govt was seen as military power – necessary to defend the faith.. but fundamentally exterior to society
islam law took aim at just about all the most notorious abuses of earlier axial age society.. slavery thru kidnapping, judicial punishment, debt, sale of children.. all were forbidden or rendered unenforceable.. likewise all forms of debt peonage.. islam strictly forbade usury.. interest for any purpose whatsoever..
great urban civ of middle east had always been dominated by a de facto alliance between admins and merchants.. both of whom kept rest of population either in debt peonage or constant peril of falling into it.. t
in converting to islam.. the commercial classes.. so long the arch villains in eyes of ordinary farmers/townsfolk, agreed to change sides, abandon all their most hated practices and become leaders of society that now defined self against the state.. it was possible because from the beginning.. islam had a positive view toward commerce
islam pro market.. anti state
as result.. credit instruments soon became so essential to trade that almost anyone of prominence was expected to keep most of his/her wealth on deposit and to make everyday transactions not by coins but by inkpot and paper.. promissory notes were called sakk ‘checks’ or ruq’a ‘notes’.. checks could bounce
in all such matters, reputation was crucial.. in fact, one lively debate in early commercial law was over question of whether reputation could.. (like land, labor, money, or other resources), itself be considered a form of capital..
sometimes merchants would form partnerships w no capital at all. but only their good names.. ‘partnership of good reputation’.. also called ‘partnership of the penniless’
– algeria (bourdieu)- ‘quite possible to turn honor into money.. almost impossible to turn money into honor’
level of trust created between merchants in great malay/malacca… was legendary.. it was said that its merchants shunned enforceable contracts, preferring to seal transactions ‘with a handshake and a glance at heaven’…
once freed from ancient scourges of debt/slavery .. the local bazaar had become for most not a place of moral danger, but the very opp: highest expression of human freedom and communal solidarity, and thus to be protected assiduously from state intrusion..
there was a particular hostility to anything that smacked of price fixing.. since markets were designed by god to reg selves.. (resemblance to adam smith’s invisible hand)
but where for smith.. division of labor is actually an outgrowth of our ‘natural propensity to truck and barter’ in pursuit of individual advantage, for tusi, it was an extension of mutual aid..
as a result, he (tusi) argues.. divine providence has arranged us to have diff abilities, desires, and inclinations.. the market is simply one manifestation of this more general principal of mutual aid, of the matching of abilities (supply) and needs (demand) – or to translate it into my own earlier terms.. it is not only founded on, but is itself an extension of the kind of baseline communism on which society must ultimately rest..
specialization ness (any permanent/binding labels) killing us.. the death of us.. missing the changing ness of us.. the it is me ness.. more than labels.. we need non hierarchical listening .. so that we can have our only label being our daily curiosity and then use that data to augment our natural interconnectedness
ghazali: how do you compare two things w no common qualities? ie: flour for donkey.. his conclusion – it can only be done by comparing both to a third thing w no qualities at all – for this reason he explains.. god created coins.. otherwise no good for anything
ghazali – money as a symbol.. abstract measure.. no qualities of its own.. whose value only maintained by constant motion
the far west: christendom (commerce, lending, and war)
aristotle’s position that money was a mere social convention, ie: whatever human beings decided that it was
as centralized states disappeared, the reg of markets was increasingly in hands of church
while few were willing to condemn slavery, all condemned usury.. usury was seen above all as an assault on christian charity
basil: ‘the man who has made himself responsible for interest that he cannot pay has accepted voluntary slavery for life’..
basil grows poetic in describing the debtor’s plight.. it’s as if time itself has become his enemy. every day/night conspires against him, as they are the parents of interest. his life becomes a ‘sleepless daze of anxious uncertainty’.. humiliated in public.. at home hiding under couch at every unexpected knock on door.. can barely sleep, startled awake by nightmare vision of his creditor standing over his pillow..
Usury, he observes, must be considered a form of violent robbery, even murder – ambrose’s de Tobia
he (ambrose) had to address the one problem later authors always had to struggle w – the fact that in the old testament.. usury is not quire forbidden to everyone.. deut 23:19-20: ‘unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury..’.. so who then is this ‘stranger’.. foreigner..? presumably, ambrose concluded.. one against whom robbery and murder would have been justified as well.. after all.. the ancient jew lives amidst tribes like the amalekites, on who god had specifically instruct them to make war.. if by extracting interest one is, as he puts it, fighting w/o a sword, then it is only legit to do so from those ‘whom it would not be a crime to kill’
structural violence et al
basil: the communism of the apostles – who pooled all wealth and took freely what they needed – was thus the only proper model for a truly christian society.. few of he other christian fathers were willing to take things this far.. true, they admitted, communism was the ideal, but in this fallen and temporary world, it was simply unrealistic..
until now.. ie: imagine if we
the church must accept existing property arrangements, but also come up w spiritual argument to encourage the rich to nonetheless act w christian charity.. many of these employed distinctly commercial metaphors.. even basil was willing to indulge in this sort of thing: ‘whenever you provide for the destitute on acct of the lord it’s both gift/loan.. gift because no hope of recovering it.. loans because lord’s paying you back vast sum in return’
gift to poor is loan to jesus.. repaid in heaven w interest inconceivable on earth.. charity, however, is a way of maintaining ineq, not undermining it.. what basil is talking here really has nothing to do w debt.. and playing w such metaphors seems ultimately to serve only to underline the fact that the rich man doesn’t owe the poor suppliant anything.. ‘debt’ here dissolves into a pure hierarchy.. where diff beings provide each other diff kinds of benefits..
t aquinas: humans live in time.. so makes sense to say sin is a debt to god.. but god lives outside time.. by defn he can’t owe anything to anyone.. his grace can therefore only be a gift given w no obligation
what are they really asking rich man to do? church opposed to usury.. but not feudal dependency.. ie: serfs, vassals.. a voluntary contractual relationship. just as christian has to e able to freely choose to submit to lord.. so did a vassal have to agree to make himself someone else’s man
men like ambrose wondered if an ‘honest merchant’ was not a contradiction in terms.. many held.. couldn’t be both a merchant and a christian.. what did it mean that one could only lend to strangers.. was it just usury or was even commerce tantamount (equiv in seriousness to) to war?
jews and christians lived in same towns villages.. if one were to concede that the exception allowed jews and christians the right to lend to each other at interest.. it would also mean they had right to murder one another.. no one really wanted to say that.. on other hand.. real relation between c and j often did seem to skate perilously close to this unfortunate ideal.. though the actual murder (apart form mere econ aggression) was all on one side
in part, this was due to habit of c prices of exploiting for own purpose.. the fact that j’s did sit slightly outside the system.. many encourage jews to operate as moneylenders under their protection.. simply because they also know that protection could be withdrawn at any time.. kings of england were notorious in this regard.. they insisted the j’s be excluded from merchant/ craft guilds, but granted them right to charge extravagant rates of interest, backing up loans by full force of law.. debts in medieval england were regularly thrown in prisons until families settled w creditor.. yet.. same thing regularly happened to j’s themselves.. ie’s of tortures to j’s, extraction of teeth, skin, ,intestines.. kings treating debts owed to j’s as ultimately owed to themselves..
but it also gave kings the opp to periodically play the populist card, dramatically snubbing or humiliating their j financiers, turning blind eye or even encouraging .. murder/massacre.. norman cohn put it ‘what had once been a flourishing j culture had turned into a terrorized society locked in perpetual warfare w the great society around it’
in 1179 usury was made a mortal sin and usurers were excommunicated
all this was echoed by a heady intellectual debate in newly founded unis – not if usury is sinful and illegal, but precisely why.. some argued that it was a theft of time.. charging others for something that belonged only to god.. but as church authorities soon discovered, when one opens up such debates, it’s very hard to keep a lid on them.. soon new popular religious movements appearing everywhere.. not only challenging commerce but questioning the very legitimacy of private property.. could christianity be reconciled w property of any sort
hardt/negri property law et al
roman law – which began from assumption of absolute private property – put new intellectual weapons in hands of those who wished to argue for usury
the great discovery in this case was notion of interesse, originally comes from: compensation for loss suffered because of late payment.. argument went – not usurious if was a penalty (for late ness) rather than rental for money.. it was justified as compensation for profit he would/could have made..
what jumps out in comparison w muslim world are these links of finance, trade, and violence..
christians suspicion that commerce was really an extension of usury.. competition was essential to nature of market.. but competition was (usually) nonviolent warfare
usually? – competitiveness
often held that first pioneers of modern banking were the military order of the nights of temple of solomon, commonly known as the nights templar.. a fighting order of monks, they played a key role in financing the crusades..
in other words.. christians appear to have first adopted islamic financial techniques to finance attacks against islam..
the differences between trade, crusade and piracy often depended on the balance of forces at any give moment.. the same was true on land: were asian empires tended to separate the sphere of warriors and merchants, in europe they often overlapped: ‘merchants not only supplied warriors.. they sat in govts that made war and sometimes went into battle themselves.. ‘
merchant adventures.. originally just meant a merchant who operated outside his country.. 1160-72 began to take on contemp meaning.. via mostly poet chretien de troyes.. author of famous arthurian romances.. holy grail et al.. stories of knightly adventure quickly became enormously popular.. followed by arthur, guinevere, lancelot, .. this courtly ideal of gallant knight et al.. remains central to our image of middle ages.. the curious thing is that it bears almost no relation to reality..
knights – originally been a term for freelance warriors,… unable to inherit (bastard sons), forced to band together to seek their fortunes.. became like gangs… thugs… so dangerous to merchants
jousting fights – were effort to gain control of this dangerous population.. pit knights against each other.. turning their entire existence into a kind of stylized game – culminating in 12th cent
ideal of lone wandering knight in search of gallant adventure.. seems to have come out of nowhere.. this is important.. able to achieve power as successful merchant adventurer .. perfect life.. et al..
real court staffed by lowborn commercants.. leaving most real knights in role of onlookers, guards, or at tournaments – entertainers..
tournaments became econ focus in their own right .. amy kelly: ‘fortunes made/lost on point of a lance and many a mother’s son failed to ride home’
on no one knowing what the grail was.. marc shell: best conceived as a blank check.. ultimate financial abstraction
plato, the symposium: ‘each of us a mere symbolon of a man, the result of bisection, like the flat fish, two out of one, and each of us is constantly searching for his corresponding symbolon’..t
if axial age was age of materialism, middle ages .. age of transcendence..
if there is an essence to medieval thought, it lies not in blind obedience to authority but rather in a dogged insistence that the values that govern our ordinary daily affairs – particularly those of the court and marketplace – are confused, mistaken, illusory, or perverse.. true value lay elsewhere in a domain that cannot be directly perceived.. but only approached thru study or contemplation.. but this in turn made the faculties of contemplation and the entire question of knowledge an endless problem.. ie: is world created by our minds, or minds by the world?.. can see same tensions w/in predominant theories of money ie: aristotle – money as social convention.. so w/in our power to change it..
ghazali: gold has no intrinsic value.. but that’s basis of value as money.. no value allows it to ‘govern’ measure and reg value of other things.. but at same time.. ghazali denied that money was social convention.. it was give to us by god (often shied away from most radical implications of his own ideas).. but.. ghazalie’s position was perfectly consonant w islamic desire to protect market from political interference by saying it fell properly under aegis of religious authorities
when aristotle argue coins merely social conventions.. the term he used was symbolon.. from which ‘symbol’ is derived.. originally greek word for tally.. an object broken in halt to mark a contract or agreement or debt.. so our word for symbol traces back to object broken to record debt contracts
ie: 2 friends at dinner might create a symbolon if take object and brae it in half.. then in future if need other’s help.. bring halves as reminder of friendship.. archeologist have found hundreds of little broken friendship tablets of this sort in athens..
used for written docs.. symbolon also passport, contract, receipt.. came to mean: omen, symptom,.. symbol..
aristotle on tally could be anything as long as could break it in half.. it is exactly so w language: words are sounds we use to refer to objects/ideas.. but the relation is arbitrary..
in this sense.. all words were arbitrary tokens of agreements.. so of course is money.. that we agree to treat as if they were worth a certain amount.. but all money, even gold is just a symbolon a social convention
rulers could change value of currency by issuing a decree.. symbolon came to refer to certain cryptic formulae that only initiates could understand.. ie: dionysius warns us that we cannot begin to understand how symbols work until we rid selves of notion that divine things are likely to be beautiful.. since tempted to imagine that’s what heaven is like.. effective symbols are like the original symbolon.. homely objects selected at random.. often ugly ridiculous things.. reminding us they are not god.. that god transcend all materiality..
but the notion that they are in any sense tokens of agreement between equals is gone entirely.. symbols are gifts, absolute, free, hierarchical gifts, presented by a being so far above us that any thought of reciprocity, debt, or mutual obligation is simply inconceivable..
The common feature seems to be a contract between two parties that begin as equal in which one agrees to become subordinate. later as the state became more centralized we mainly hear about fu presented to officials as a means of conveying order
so ineq and carhart-harris entropy law et al
paper version of such debt contracts, ripped in half and reunited..
why propitious omens were called ‘fu’ signs that heaven approved of the ruler, just as natural disaster were a sign that he had strayed..
chinese ideas grow closer to chirstian ones.. but chinese conception of cosmos had one crucial diff: since no absolute gulf between world and beyond.. contractual relation s w gods were by no means out of the question
monks ordained thru ceremony called ‘rending the tally’ ripping apart a piece of paper that rep’d a contract w heaven..
just looking at a yin yang symbol.. easy to imagine left and right (sometimes too male and female) halves of a tally..
a tally does away w need for witnesses, if two surfaces agree (fit back together) everyone knows the agreement between contracting parties exists as well.. this is why aristotle saw it as a fit metaphor for words: word a corresponds to concept b because there is a tacit agreement that we shall act as if it does..
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.
hence, for a medieval christian mystic as for medieval chinese magicians, symbols could be literal fragments of heaven.. even if.. for the first, they provided a language whereby one could have some understanding of beings one could not possibly interact with, while for the second.. they provided a way of interacting, even making practical arrangements, w beings whose language one could not possibly understand
idiosyncratic jargon ness ?
in mid ages when econ became spiritualized.. gold silver migrated to holy places & ordinary transactions carried out primarily thru credit.. wealth/markets.. debt/morality.. place in universe.. (all mixing)
europe and india saw return to hierarchy: ranked order of priests, warriors, merchants and farmers.. debts between the orders were considered threatening because implied potential of equality and often led to violence.. in china in contrast.. principle of debt often became governing principle of cosmos: karmic debts, milk debts, debt contracts between human/celestial.. from pov of authorities.. these led to excess and potentially vast concentration of capital that might throw entire social order out of balance.. so govt intervene constantly to keep markets running avoiding new outbreaks of popular unrest.. in islam.. where held that god recreated entire universe at every instant.. market fluctuation s were instead seen as merely another manifestation of divine will..
striking that confucian condemnation and islamic celebration of the merchant.. ultimately led to same thing: prosperous societies w flourishing markets.. but where the elements never came together to create the great merchant banks and industrial firms that were to become hallmark of modern capitalism..
so why did nothing like modern capitalism emerge (in these places)
1\ islamic merchants appear to have taken their free market ideology seriously.. not under supervision of govt.. contracts made w ‘handshake and glance at heaven’.. thus honor/credit became indistinguishable.. this is inevitable: you can’t have cutthroat competition where there is no one stopping people from literally cutting one another’s throats..
2\ islam took seriously that profits are the reward for risk.. trading enterprises assumed to be adventures.. dangers of storm, shipwreck.. savage nomads..arbitrary govts.. et al.. fin mechs designed to avoid risk were considered impious (wicked)
in this sense.. buddhist monasteries of early medieval china rep the opp extreme.. treasuries inexhaustible because by continually lending money out of interest.. never touching capital.. could guarantee risk free investments.. that was the entire point.. by doing so, buddhism, unlike islam, produced something very much like what we now call ‘corporation’ entities that thru a charming legal fiction, we imagine to be persons.. but immortal.. never having to go thru all the human untidiness of marriage, reproduction infirmity and death.. to put it in properly medieval terms, they are very much like angels..
legally our notion of the corp is very much a product of europe high mid ages.. the legal idea of a corp as ‘fictive person’
1250 ad and one of first kinds of entities it (corp as fictive person) applied to were monasteries – as also to unis, churches, municipalities and guilds..
worth emphasizing because while we’re used to assuming something natural/inevitable about existence of corps.. in historical terms.. actually strange, exotic creatures.. no other great tradition came up w anything like it
they (corps) have of course changed a great deal.. medieval corps owned property, often engaged in complex fin arrangements.. but in no case were they profit seeking in modern sense.. the ones that came closest were perhaps unsurprisingly, monastic orders.. some even talk about ‘monastic capitalism’.. still ground was only really prepared for capitalism in familiar sense .. when merchants began to org selves into eternal bodies as way to win monopolies, legal or de facto, and avoid ordinary risks of trade
when such co’s began to engage in armed ventures overseas.. new era of human history might be said to have begun
ch 11 starts 6330
ch 11: age of the great capitalist empires (1450-1971)
b traven, the carreta: ‘.. the peon can get the shirt nowhere else when he needs one.. he can get credit nowhere but from his master (who charges 4 fold) for whom ehe works and from whom he can never get away as long as he owes him a centavo’
the epoch that began w what we’re used to calling the ‘age of exploration’ was marked by so many things that were genuinely new – mod sci, capitalism, humanism, nation state.. that it may seem odd to frame it as just another turn of an historical cycle.. still.. from perspective i’ve been developing in this book.. that is what it was..
era begins around 1450 w turn away from virtual currencies and credit econs and back to gold/silver.. subsequent flow of bullion from americas sped process .. sparking a ‘price revolution’ in w europe that turned tradition society upside down.. what’s more.. return to bullion was accompanied by return of whole host of other conditions that during mid ages, had been largely suppressed: vast empires, professional armies, massive predatory warfare, untrammeled usury and debt peonage.. but also materialist philosophies, a new bust of sci and philosophical creative – even the return of chattel slaver.. it was in no way a simple repeat performance.. all the axial age pieces reappeared, but they came together in an etirely diff way.
at same time.. from perspective of many ordinary farmers and urban laborers.. times couldn’t have been much better.. ie: perverse effect of bubonic plague.. killed off about 1/3 of european workforce.. in yrs after.. wages increased dramatically
largely because first reaction of authorities was to enact legislation freezing wages.. met w powerful resistance.. series of uprisings.. famous peasant revolt of 1381 et al.. all these were squelched but authorities were also forced to compromise.. before long.. so much wealth was flowing into hands of ordinary people that govts had to star introducing new laws .. to ie: limit number of feast days.. where they ate up 1/3 to 1/2 of the year.. 15th cent considered heyday of medieval festive life.. w floats, dragons, maypoles and church ales.. its abbots of unreason and lords of misrule.. over next centuries.. all this was to be destroyed..
most of gold ended up in temples in india and bullion shipped off to china.. the latter is crucial.. if we really want to understand origins of modern world econ.. place to start is not europe.. real story is of how china abandoned use of paper money
merchants.. became widely detested.. partly as result, former rebels.. ming dynasty.. were suspicious of commerce in any form and they promoted a romantic vision of self sufficient agrarian communities.. (had tax, caste) .. and forbidding to change jobs
so.. not visionary/romantic enough.. if still taxes, jobs, et al
in end.. govt gave up even trying to suppress the informal econ.. instead.. swung other way.. stopped issuing paper money,legalized mines, allowed silver bullion as currency, gave private mints authority to produce cash.. this in turn allowed govt to gradually abandon system of labor exaction and sub a uniform tax system payable in silver.. effectively.. chines govt had gone back to old policy of encouraging markets and merely intervening to prevent undue concentrations.. it quickly proved successful and chinese markets boom.. unique in world history: this was time when chinese pop was exploding .. but living standards markedly improved..
as turned out.. chines mines were very quickly exhausted..
at almost same time.. columbus.. seeking short cut to china.. touched land in new world.. and spanish/portuguese empires stumbled into greatest econ windfall in human history: entire continents full of unfathomable wealth, whose inhabitants, armed only w stone age weapons, began conveniently dying almost as soon as they arrived..
kenneth pomeranz: ‘none of this would have been possible were it not for the practically unlimited asian demand for precious metal..
despite massive influx of metal form americas.. most families were so long on cash they were regularly reduced to melting down family silver to pay taxes (case in most of europe).. this was because taxes had to be paid in metal.. everyday business by means of various forms of virtual credit
what really cause the inflation is that those who ended up in control of bullion – govts, bankers, large scale merchants – were able to use that control to begin changing in the rules.. ie: insisting gold/silver were money.. also destroying local systems of trust w new forms of credit money.. this was apolitical battle.. even if also a conceptual argument about nature of money..
what happened in china (w/insurrections).. reaction of european govts however was entirely diff.. rebellions were crushed.. and this time no subsequent concessions.. almost all this carried out thru a manipulation of debt..
this is what the sue of equation so often does: make it seem perfectly natural to assume that (whatever – he’s referring specifically to taking advantage of profit opps) .. even if doing so requires the destruction of entire civs
history makes it quite clear.. any number of civs have been in position to wreak havoc.. but almost none actually did so..
(on the horrors going on and the mining horrors being worse)..
whole regions depopulated by forced service in mines..
when dealing w conquistadors, speaking not just of simple greed, but greed raised to mythic proportions.. they never seems to get enough..
moralists thru ages on endlessness of human greed.. and lust for power.. what history actually reveals though is that .. very few really act this way.. even for most ambitious of us.. our dreams are more like sindbads’ : to have adventures to accrue means to settle down and live and enjoyable life and then to enjoy it.. max weber argued that the essence of capitalism is the urge . never to settle down.. but to engage in endless expansion
(on all the horrors) we are not dealing w a psychology of cold, calculating greed, but of a much more complicated mix of shame and righteous indignation.. and of the frantic urgency of debts that would only compound and accumulate and outrage at the idea that after all they had gone thru (those fighting ended up w none of plunder.. ended up in debt) they should be held to owe anything to begin with.. and what of cortes – he has just pulled off greatest act of theft in world history.. yet ‘all i have received has been insufficient to relive me from misery/poverty’.. had to return to spain to petition emperor in person fro relief..
that relationship.. between the daring adventurer/gambler and the careful financier whose entire operations are organized around producing steady, mathematical, inexorable growth of income.. lies at very heart of what we now call capitalism..t
(was it contempt, revulsion, or even grudging admiration for their adversaries?).. the real point is that the key moments of decision, none of this matters.. those making the decision did not feel they were in control..those in control did not particularly care to know the details.. t
Ed et al
Even human relations become a matter of cost-benefit calculation. clearly this is the way the conquistadors viewed the worlds that they set out to conquer
(corp) It is a structure designed to eliminate all moral imperatives but profit.
martin luter 1524: ‘christians are rare in this world; therefore the world needs a strict, hard temporal govt that twill compel and constrain the wicked’
1525.. yr after luther’s sermon.. massive uprising of peasants, miners, and poor townsfolk across german: the rebels, in most cases, representing themselves as simple christians aiming to restore the true communism of the gospel..
again luther: ‘gospel merely describe ideal behavior; humans are sinful creatures, so law is necessary
zwingli: ‘god gave us divine law: love neighbor as self.. if truly kept this.. humans would give freely and private property would not exist.. however.. no human has ever been able to live up to his pure *communistic standard.. therefore god has give **second/inferior human law.. to be enforced by civil authorities.. t
*until now.. because it won’t work unless it’s all of us.. and now have means to facil/detox this chaos
**and so goes tragedy of the non common ness
w such *things happening, it is hardly surprising that men like hobbes came to imagine the basic nature of society as a war of all against all.. from which only the absolute power of monarchs could save us
*in sea world
..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..t
part 2 – world of credit and world of interest
charles davenant 1696: ‘of all beings that have existence only in minds of men.. nothing more fantastical/nice than credit; it is never to be forced; hangs on opinion; depends on passions of hope/fear; comes unsought for; often goes away w/o reason; and once lost.. hardly to be quite recovered‘
english/german proverb: ‘he that has lost his credit is dead to the world‘
peasants’ visions of communistic brotherhood did not come out of nowhere.. they were rooted in real daily experience: common fields/forests, everyday coop and neighborly solidarity.. it is out of such homely experience of every day communism that grand mythic visions are always built.. obviously, rural communities were also divided.. squabbling place.. since communities always are – but insofar as they are communities at all.. necessarily founded on a ground of mutual aid.. same can be said of members of the aristocracy.. who may have fought but in end coop’d when it really matters.. (most of all when position was threatened).. just as merchants/bankers.. competed.. also managed to close ranks when it mattered.. this is what i refer to as the ‘communism of the rich’ and it is a powerful force in human history.. same applies to credit.. diff standards
putting things ‘on the tab’.. everyone involved in selling something.. everyone knew and kept count of what neighbors owed.. and every 6 mos or year.. general public ‘reckoning’.. canceling debts.. remaining settled by use of coin/goods
this upends our assumptions/blaming rise of capitalism on ‘the market’.. the breakup of older system of mutual aid/solidarity and creation of world of cold calc, where everything had its price.. english villager appear to have seen no contradiction between the two.. markets seen as a kind of attenuated version of mutual aid.. .. assumed they ought to be constantly slightly in debt to one another..
in this world.. trust was everything.. most money literally was trust.. since most credit arrangements were handshake deals.. when people used word ‘credit’ they referred above all to a reputation for honesty/integrity.. good natured sociability.. at least as important (when deciding to make a loan) as assessments of net income
as result.. financial terms became indistinguishable from moral ones.. ie: a woman of high account; man of no account;.. giving credit was believing in words (credit from same root as creed or credibility)
one should not idealize the situation.. ie: this was highly patriarchal world: many labeled ‘no account’.. coins most likely to be used both by sort of people who ran the legal system and by those violent elements of society they saw it as their business to control
1696 davenant: ‘even if collapse of confidence in credit system.. could not last long.. eventually people realized that credit wi simply an extension of human society.. when man realizes weak depending on self.. he will help others and call on assistance of neighbors.. which of course, by degrees, must set credit again afloat’..
davenant was an unusual merchant.. most typical of his class were men like hobbes (opened new moral perspective and a devastating one): ‘humans basically machines whose actions could be understood by pleasure over pain – self-interest can’t be trusted.. so need absolute power of king’
key to the new philosophy – ‘self interest’.. borrowed from interesse for interest payments.. views of it went from cynical to common sense..
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.
allows to cut thru passions/emotions.. and discover that most really important decision based on rational calc of material advantage.. which means that they are fairly predicable as well
“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.” And, of course, it was on this assumption that all the quadratic equations of economic theory could ultimately be built. The problem is that the origin of the concept is not rational at all..t
for augustine ‘love of god’ leads to benevolence toward fellows; self love in contrast, refers to fact that since fall of man we are cursed by endless insatiable desires for self gratification.. so much so that if left to won devices.. we will necessarily fall into universal competition, even war..
need to get back/to an undisturbed ecosystem..
it kept that same assumption of insatiable desire under the guise of impersonal math, since what is interest but the demand that money never cease to grow..t
the very idea that human beings are motivated primarily by self interest then was rooted in the profoundly christian assumption that we are all incorrigible sinners.. left to own devices.. we will not simply pursue certain level of comfort/happiness and then stop to enjoy it; we will never cash in the chips.. let alone question why we need to buy chips to begin with
augustine already anticipated, infinite desire in a finite world means endless competition which in turn is why as hobbes insisted.. our only hope of social peace lies in contractual arrangements and strict enforcement by the apparatus of the state
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..t
obviously it was the rare shopkeeper who wished to see even his most irritating client on the gallows. as a result, decent people tended to avoid the courts entirely. one of the most interesting discoveries of craig muldrew’s research is that the more time passed, the less true this became..
if they did default.. lender was just as guilty in eyes of law.. less than 1% of cases were ever brought to judgment..
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.
only tiny proportion of these suits were ever brought to judgment, either: usual expedient was still to rely on threat of punishment to encourage debtors to settle out of court.. still..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.
his good credit (kindly shopkeeper) itself became a problem, esp as he felt honor bound to use it to help the less fortunate6891
The criminalization of debt, then, was the criminalization of the very basis of human society.
communities, much tough they are based on love, in fact, because they are based on love, will always also be full of hatred, rivalry, and passion – when it became clear that w sufficiently clever scheming, manip, and perhaps a bit of strategic bribery, they could arrange to have almost anyone they hated imprisoned or even hanged..
sudden accessibility of violence really did threaten to transform what had been the essence of sociality into a war of all against all.. not surprising then that by 18th cent.. very notion of personal credit had acquired a bad name.. both lender/borrowers considered equally suspect.. use of coins – at least among those who had access to them – had come to seem moral in itself..
adam smith on shopkeepers ‘never talk to them of our won necessities but of their advantages’
in other words, smith simply imagined away the role of consumer credit in his own day.. just as he had his account of the origins of money.. this allowed him to ignore the role of both benevolence and malevolence in econ affairs..
nietzsche in turn was taking up smith’s premises.. that life is exchange.. but laying bare everything (torture, murder, mutilation) that smith preferred not to have to talk about.. what he is really describing is wha tit took to produce a world in which the son of a prosperous middle class reverend, such as himself, could simply assume that all human life is premised on calculated, self interested exchange..
on finding shell/bead/salt money and endless varieties everywhere.. yet all just cause econ thinkers to dig in their heels.. some appealed to alchemy to argue that the monetary status of gold (sun) and silver (moon) had a natural basis
if one looks at actual history though.. quickly becomes clear that all of these new forms of money in no way undermined assumption that money was founded on ‘intrinsic’ value of gold/silver.. what seems to have happened.. is that once credit became unlatched from real relations of trust.. it became apparent that money could in effect, be produced simply by saying it was there.. but that when done in amoral world of a competitive marketplace.. it would almost inevitably lead to scams and confidence games of every sort.. causing guardians of system to periodically panic and seek new ways to latch value of various forms of paper back onto gold/silver. . this is the story normally told as ‘the origins of modern banking’
what it reveals is just how closely bound together war, bullion, and these new credit instruments were
same song – all the way thru book
modern banking.. issuing more than have on cash reserve.. most medieval govt extremely harsh penalties on banker unable to make restitution in such cases.. ie: beheading in front of own bank 1360 barcelona.. proved safer/profitable to manip govt’s own finances.. ie: issuing of municipal bonds (history of modern fin instruments and ultimate origins of paper money) – compulsory loan on citizens promising 5% annual interest .. thus creating a market in govt debt
easy to see how this might raise all sorts of question about legal/moral relation between people and govt.. ie: commercial classes did end up seeing selves as owning the govt more than saw selves as being in its debt
however.. true paradox only appears when on begins to ‘monetize’ this debt.. ie: take govt promises to pay.. and circulate (that promise to pay) as currency.. rented, juros, annuities.. were the real credit money of the new age.. it’s here that we have to look for the real origins of the ‘price revolution’ that hammered once independent townsfolk and villager into the ground.. and opened way for most of them to be reduced to waged laborers.. working for those who had access to these higher forms of credit
paper money in china. … bank of england 1694 – genuine paper money. not bonds. rooted like all others .. in the kings war debts – can’t be emphasized enough.. fact that money was no longer a debt owed to the king.. but a debt owed by the king.. very diff than before.. in many ways.. had become a mirror image of older forms of money
man who won argument was john locke.. at that time acting as advisor to sir isaac newton, then warden of the mint..
decided to recalibrate money.. make it have same value as before (via locke)… proved 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.
newtonian econ: the assumption that one cannot simply create money or even tinker w it.. came to be accepted by almost everyone.. everyone concluded.. had to be some solid/material foundation to all this or the entire system would go insane.. true.. economists were to spend centuries arguing about what that foundation might be.. but no one returned to anything like the aristotelian view
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..t
politics very similar to magic – halo of fraud.. dependence on public faith in the political stability of the throne
If one does not believe in the king, then the money vanishes with him.
ie: plutarch – when he railed against moneylenders in roman times ‘laughing at those natural philosophers who hold that nothing can be made of nothing’ as they manip their books and ledgers to demand back money then ever actually had..
josiah charles stamp director of bank of england: ‘modern banking system manufactures money out of nothing.. process perhaps most astounding piece of sleight of hand that was ever invented.. if you wish to remain slaves of bankers, and pay the cost of your own slavery, let them continue to create deposits’.. seems unlikely stamp ever really aid this.. but passage has been cited endlessly.. probably single most often quoted passage by critics of modern banking system.. it clearly strikes a chord.. bankers evil because playing god.. but deeper (than all that).. ie: greed
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.
for all its endless strains and periodic breakdowns, the system has held out so far.. but as 2008 testified, it has never been resolved.. so what is capitalism anyway?
the peculiar paradox.. we like to think factories and workshops as the ‘real econ’.. and the rest as superstructure on top.. but if were so.. how can it be that superstructure came first. (because earlier says elements of fin apparatus that we associate w capitalism – banks, bonds..came before factories, wage labor).. *can dreams of system create its body
? not following last question.. (out of context of point he’s making) .. because yeah ie: cure ios city – built on ongoing dreams
raises question of what capitalism is to begin with.. a question on which there is not consensus at all.. the word originally invented by socialists.. saw c as those who own capital command labor of those who don’t.. proponents tend to see c as freedom of marketplace.. to bring visions into being.. just about everyone however agrees that c is a system that demand constant endless growth..
on gdp – 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.
c as gigantic fin apparatus of credit and debt that operates – in practical effect – to pump more an more labor out of just about everyone w whom it comes into contact.. as a result produces endlessly expanding volume of material goods.. at every point.. the familiar but peculiarly european entanglement of war and commerce reappears .. often in startling new forms.
national debts of england, france and others were based in money borrowed not to dig canals and erect bridges but to acquire gunpowder needed to bombard cities and to construct the camps required for the holding of prisoners and the training of recruits.. t
Paper money was debt money, and debt money was war money, and this has always remained the case.
those who financed europe’s endless military conflicts also employed the govt’s police and prisons to extract ever increasing productivity from rest of population.. t
world market initiated by spaniards and portuguese first arose in search for spices.. and soon settled into 3 broad trades: arms, slave, drug
in either case.. end product was same: human beings so entirely ripped form contexts and hence so thoroughly dehumanized, that they were placed outside the realm of debt entirely
just about everyone in cities like paris and london w any disposable cash would suddenly become convinced that they would somehow be able to profit from the fact that everyone else was succumbing to rumor and fantasy
in every case, their price was quickly bid thru the ceiling – each new buyer betting, effectively, that he/she could unload them on some even more gullible sucker before the inevitable collapse..
if one is to believe mackay, the entire pop of london conceived the simultaneous delusion, not that money could really be manufactured out of nothing, but that other people were foolish enough to believe that it could, and that, for that very reason, they actually could make money out of nothing after all..
the real story was entirely diff.. the huitoto had not been tricked into becoming debt peons at all.. it was the agents and overseers sent into the region where, much like the conquistadors, deeply indebted.. discovering the huitoto to have no interest in cloth, machetes, and coins they had brought to trade.. they’d finally given up and just started rounding indians up and forcing them to accept loans at gunpoint..
in reality, then, the indians had been reduced to slavery; it’s just that, by 1907, no one could openly admit this.
a legit enterprise had to have some moral basis and the only morality the company knew was debt..
It is the secret scandal of capitalism that at no point has it been organized primarily around free labor..t the conquest of the americas began w mass enslavement, the gradually settled into various forms of debt peonage
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…t for the capitalists, this means the freedom of market place.. for most workers, means free labor.. marxists have questioned whether wage labor is ultimately free in any sense (since someone w nothing to sell but his/her body cannot in any sense by considered a genuinely free agent) but they still tend to assume that free wage labor is the basis of c..
all those millions of slaves and serfs and coolies and debt peons disappear, or if we must speak of them.. we write them off as temp bumps along the road.. like sweatshops, they are assumed to rep a state that industrializing nations had to pass thru
proletarianization came to mean was that millions of young men/women across europe found selves stuck in a kind of permanent adolescence. apprentices and journeymen could never become masters and thus never actually grow up
..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..t
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.
such imaginary constructs.. what scientists refer to as models .. nothing intrinsically wrong w them.. fair case can be made we cannot think w/o them.. problem .. at least always seems to happen when we model something called the market – is that once created.. we have tendency to treat them as objective realities
marx was well aware there were far more bootblack, prostitutes, butlers, soldiers, pedlars.. street musicians, convicts, nannies and cab drivers in london of his day than there were factory workers.. he was never suggesting that that’s what the world was actually like..
still if there is anything that the last several hundred yrs of world history have shown, it’s that utopian visions can be powerful.. 1825-1975 brief, determined effort to try to turn vision into reality
speaking as someone brought up in that sort of working class fam (my bro died at 53, having refused to his dying day to acquire a credit card), i can attest to the degree that, for those who spend most of their waking hrs working at someone else’s orders.. the ability to pull out a wallet full of banknotes that are unconditionally one’s own can be a compelling form of freedom.
work et al
not surprising that so many of economists’ assumptions have been embraced by leaders of historic workers’ movements.. so much so that they have come to shape our vision of what alts to capitalism might be like.. the problem is not just that it is rooted in a deeply flawed, even perverse, conception of human freedom..
all warriors are gamblers.. the quintessence of a warrior’s honor, which is a greatness that can only come from the destruction/degradation of others, is his willingness to throw self into game where he risks that same destruction/degradation himself.. and.. play graciously and by the rules.. stake everything
relation between gambling and apocalypse.. c is a system that enshrines gambler as essential part of its operation.. yet c incapable of conceiving of its own eternity.. could two be linked?.. exponents of c often feel obliged to insist it is the only possible viable econ system.. 1\ has existed for 5000 and will for 5000 more 2\ once significant portion of pop believes this.. and starts treating credit institutions as if will be around forever.. everything goes haywire.. ie: ones most careful about managing public debt.. saw most bizarre explosions of frenzy.. tulip manias and s sea bubbles..
national debt is money borrowed from future generations.. whenever we buy a paper, coffee, place a bet on a horse.. we are trading in promises, reps of something that the govt will give us at some time in the future.. even if we don’t know exactly what it is
or isn’t.. ie: pera
ideas which 50 yrs before (french revolution), the vast majority of educated europeans would have written off as crazy, but which, 50 yrs after, just about anyone felt they had to at least pretend they thought were true: 1\ social change/improvement is inevitable 2\ agent to manage such change is govt 3\ govt gets legitimacy from entity called ‘the people’
part of problem 1\ national debt first born of war 2\ not owed to all people equally.. – ‘modern theory of perpetuation of debt has drenched earth w blood, and crushed its inhabitants under burdens ever accumulating’ – thomas jefferson
intrinsic to new modern notion of impersonal debt.. was possibility of bankruptcy.. at time meant a personal apocalypse: prison.. starvation.. death.. no one at that time knew what national bankruptcy would mean.. no precedents.. ie: abbe sieyes first put forward his great scheme for rep govt primarily as way of reforming national finances.. to fend off inevitable catastrophe
many victorian capitalist operated under sincere belief that they might at any moment find themselves hanging from trees.. one could go further: moment fear of social rev no longer seemed plausible.. (end of ww2) we were immediately presented w nuclear holocaust.. then.. when that no longer seemed plausible.. we discovered global warming..
presented w prospect of its own eternity, c or fin c, simply explodes.. because if no end to it.. no reason not to generate credit.. future money .. infinitely.. recent event seem to confirm this.. ie: period leading to 2008 was one where many believed c really as going to be around forever.. at least.. no one seemed any longer to be able to imagine an alt..
ch 12 starts 7442
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 – had little choice.. forced by rising costs of vietnam war..
rumors of 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… under free market orthodoxy.. we’ve all been asked to accept that the market isa self regulating system w rising/falling prices akin to force of nature.. and ignore the fact that.. (actually) rise/fall in anticipation of or reaction to decision by alan greenspan or whoever is currently chairman of the fed reserve..
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.
the creation of central banks rep’d a permanent institutionalization of that marriage between the interest of warriors and financiers..
Nixon floated the dollar in order to pay for the cost of a war (nam) 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.
all dollar bill in circulation in america are fed reserve notes.. promissory notes via fed.. pays us mint 4 cents for each bill..
monetary policy is endlessly arcane and it does sometimes seem, intentionally so..
fuller too much law et al
(Henry Ford once remarked that if ordinary Americans ever found out how the banking system really worked, there would be a revolution tomorrow.).. there is no end to the smoke and mirrors there..
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 us has fought no war in which it did not control the skies..
61 – ugh
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. 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.
us and ussr superpowers because leasers had means thru nuclear arsenals to destroy humanity .. obviously this power could only be translated into political influence insofar as it wasn’t actually exercised.. .. still true of us cosmic pretensions.. don’t work by direct threat but by creating political environ defined by knowledge of utterly disproportionate access to means of violence.. eroded the moment violence is used..
nixon’s floating of the dollar and circulation outside of country.. central banks can just use them to buy us treasury bonds.. ‘this feature is essence of america’s free financial ride, a tax imposed at the entire globe’s expense’.. american imperial power is based on debt that will/can/never be repaid.. promise to entire world.. that everyone knows will not be kept
well.. not sure if everyone believes that.. ie: keep playing the game
since nixon’s (nam) time.. most significant overseas buyers of us bonds tended to be banks in countries under us military occupation..
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. how much did hussein’s decision to buck the dollar really weight into us decision to depose him? impossible to say.. his decision to stop using ‘the enemy’s currency’ as he put it..
Much though their beneficiaries do not like to admit it, all imperial arrangements do, ultimately, rest on terror.
one of earliest/greatest political victories of us credit card industry was the elimination of all legal restriction on what they could charge as interest..
virtual should have been movement away from war, slavery, empire building.. and toward protecting debtors.. but seen opposite.. new global currency rooted in military power even more firmly than the old was..
most (people) working to pay off loans..
.. they (new techs) 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.. ie: work off debt in distant counties where lack legal protections et al
first global admin system in human history.. ie: un, world bank, wto, .. largely under us patronage.. ‘debt imperialism’
imf policies of insisting debts be repaid almost exclusively from pockets of the poor.. met by equally global movement of social rebellion..
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).. us lost even ability to argue that debt imperialism guaranteed stability
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…
after 71 us econ strength relative to world.. began to decline
constantly over course of this book: 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
on seeing govt as a moral debtor and freedom as something literally owed to the nation.. perhaps no one put it so eloquently as m l king jr in his i have a dream speech: ‘in sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check.. declaration of independence were signing a promissory note to which every american was to fall heir.. instead of honoring this sacred obligation, america has give the negro people a bad check marked ‘insufficient funds”
can see great crash of 2008 in same light.. outcome of yrs of tussles between creditors and debtors.. by end of ww2, specter of working class that so haunted ruling classes had largely disappeared..
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.
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..t
econs call this keynesian era.. since keynes formed bases of roosevelt’s new deal – the euthanasia of eh rentier.. as in so much of keynesianism.. this was much less radical than it first appeared..
(deal) offered only to a relatively small slice of world’s population..t
as ubi’s have been.. why the u? so.. just perpetuating tragedy of the non common
almost all the popular movement of 1945-75 could be seen as demands for inclusion.. t
yeah.. in our guts we now.. has to be all of us or it won’t work
ie: cure ios city
demands for political equality that assumed equality was meaningless w/o some level of econ security
at some point in 70s things reached a breaking point.. it would appear that c, as a system, simply cannot extend such a deal to everyone.. the result might be termed a crisis of inclusion
has to be everyone.. 100% of humanity
begs a means to undo our hierarchical listening
on ways of putting the populace on notice that all deals were off.. 78-2009 follow same pattern..
reagan and thatcher launch systematic attack to declare all deals were off.. link between productivity and wages chopped to bits
rather than euthanize the rentiers.. everyone could now become rentiers.. grab a chunk of profits created by their own increasingly dramatic rates of exploitation. ie: 401k’s; mortgage refi; credit card competitions; .. et al..
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.
any number of names coined to describe the new dispensation: democratization of finance; financialisation of everyday life; (outside the us) neolib;.. meant that not just market but c (remember not same thing) became organizing principle of almost everything
in this world ‘paying one’s debts’ can well come to seem the very defn of morality, if only because so many people fail to do it
diff (than risk taking) for poor.. taught to think of selves as sinners.. seeking individual redemption to have the right to any sort of moral relations w other human beings at all.. yet with premise that it’s done out of self indulgence.. what’s being shunted out of sight here is 1\ everyone is in debt (us household debt now about 130% of income) 2\ very little of debt accrued by self indulg.. it was mainly via spending for children..friends.. to build/maintain relations w other human beings.. based on something other than sheer material calculation..
chief cause of bankruptcy in america is catastrophic illness; most borrowing is simply a matter of survival (if no car cannot’s work); and for most, ie: college now means debt peonage for at least half of one’s subsequent working life.. still .. it is useful to point out that for real human beings survival is rarely enough.. nor should it be
julia elyachar: ‘in america we get 10 offers for credit cards in mail every day.. something like 40% interest.. but offer is there so you get the card and stuff wallet full of credit cards.. you feel good’
the very incoherence of the quote is telling.. the only unifying theme seems to be: people ought to be in debt.. it’s good in itself.. it’s empowering. anyway, if they end up too empowered, we can also have them arrested..
end result has been an epidemic of suicides by poor farmers caught in traps from which their families could never possibly escape..
c doesn’t work that way (thought was to turn everyone in world into micro corps or to democratize credit).. it is ultimately a system of power and exclusion.. t
nothing was altered.. (after 1945-75 era) all major decision were postponed.. the great convo that many were expecting never took place..
capitalism cannot really operate in a world where people believe it will be around forever.. it’s only now, at very moment when it’s becoming increasingly clear that current arrangements are not viable.. that we suddenly have hit the wall in terms of our collective imagination.
we cling to what exists because we can no longer imagine an alt that wouldn’t be even worse
how did we get here? my own suspicion is that we are looking at the final effects of the militarization of american c itself..
in fact, could be said that last 30 yrs have seen construction of vast B apparatus for the creation and maintenance of hopelessness, a giant machine designed, first and foremost to destroy any sense of possible alt futures..
at its root is a veritable obsession on part of rulers of world in response to upheavals of 60s-70s.. w ensuring that social movements cannot be seen to grow, flourish, or propose alts; that those who challenge existing power arrangements can never, under any circumstances be perceived to win.. to do so requires creating a vast apparatus of armies, prisons, police, various forms of private security firms and military intel apparatus and propaganda engines of every conceivable variety, most of which do not attack alts directly so much as create a pervasive climate of fear, jingoistic conformity and simple despair that renders any thought of changing the world seem an idle fantasy..t
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..t
will it be same this time around? presumably a lot depends on how consciously we set out to ensure that it won’t be.. will a return to virtual money lead to a move away from empires
what i’ve been trying to do in book.. is not propose a vision of what precisely the next age will be like, but to throw open perspective, enlarge out sense of possibilities; to begin to ask what it would mean to start thinking on a breadth and w a grandeur appropriate to the time
but why not throw things open even more widely
yeah that.. beyond any form of people telling other people what to do
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)
*why limiting imagination to financial ness?
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.. t
the one thing that’s clear is that such new ideas cannot emerge w/o our jettisoning of much of our accustomed categories of thought – which have become mostly sheer dead weight if not intrinsic parts of the very apparatus of hopelessness -and formulating new ones..t
why i spent so much of book talking about the market, but also about the false *choice between state and market that so monopolized political ideology for last centuries that it made it difficult to argue about anything else..
spinach or rock ness
they operated primarily on credit.. cash market arose thru war: again largely thru…
same song.. whole book
market populism: the idea that markets could exist beyond, against, and outside of states.. arose when merchants and common people had common cause against admin machinery of state.. but still riddled w paradox of dependence on state and human econs
The main reason that we’re unable to notice, I think, is that the legacy of violence has twisted everything around us..t 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.
how even our conceptions of freedom itself came to be transformed thru roman institution of slavery, from the ability to make friends, to enter into moral relation s w others, into incoherent dreams of absolute power, is only perhaps most dramatic instance, and most insidious, because it leaves it very hard to imagine what meaningful human freedom would even be like..t
if this book has shown anything, it’s exactly how much violence it has taken, over course of human history, to bring us to a situation where it’s even possible to imagine that that’s what life is really about .. esp when one considers how much of our own daily experience flies directly in the face of it..t
communism may be the foundation of all human relations – that communism that, in our own daily life, manifests itself above all in what we call love.. but there’s *always some sort of system of exchange and usually a system of hierarchy built on top of it
*why does there have to be? (exchange, hierarchy)
these systems of exchange can take an endless variety of forms, many perfectly innocuous.. still, what we are speaking of here is a very particular type of exchange, founded on precise calc
the diff between owing someone a favor and *owing a debt is that the amount of a debt can be **precisely calculated
*diff makes no diff.. if still have this assumption as foundation .. which we do ie: all the red flags
**precise ness matters little. what matters is that we’re still/always calculating..
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,
this in turn leads to that great embarrassing fact that haunts all attempt to rep the market as the highest form of human freedom: that historically, impersonal, commercial markets originate in theft.. who was first man to look at house full of objects and assess them only in terms of what he could get for them in the market..surely he can only have been a thief.. burglars, marauding soldiers, then perhaps deb collectors, were first to see world this way only in hands of soldiers..
and continues to be true.. Any system that reduces the world to numbers can only be held in place by weapons,..t whether these are swords and clubs, or, nowadays, “smart bombs” from unmanned drones.
can also only operate by continually converting love to debt.. (i know more provocative than communism but important to hammer point home.. just as markets when allowed to drift *entirely free from their violent origins
culmination of the process (when we ask what do we owe society/nature).. the process brought to a point of veritable dementia, since premised on assumption that we’re so absolutely, thoroughly disentangled from the world that we can just toss all other human beings .. or living creatures even or the cosmos.. in a sack and then start negotiating w them..
insofar as there’s a real crime here, though, it’s fraud. the very premise is fraudulent.. what could possibly be more presumptuous or more ridiculous than to think it would be possible to negotiate w the grounds of one’s existence..
such is the state of the conversation in mainstream literature.. it has consistently encouraged us to ask the wrong questions..t
for me.. this is exactly what’s so pernicious about the morality of debt: the way that fin imperative constantly try to reduce us all, despite ourselves, to the equiv of pillagers, eyeing the world simply for what can be turned into money.. and then tell us that it’s only those who are willing to see world as pillagers who deserve access to the resources required to pursue anything in life other than money..t
the real question now is how to ratchet things down a bit.. toward a society where people can live more by working less.
? or not at all.. (depends on defn of work.. ie: for money or ?) let’s try this – as the day
i would like to end by putting in a good word for the non industrious poor.. at least they aren’t hurting anyone.. insofar as the time they are taking off from work is being spent w friends and fam, enjoying and caring for those they love, *they’re probably improving the world more than we acknowledge.. maybe we should think of them as pioneers of a new econ order.. that would not share our current one’s penchant for self annihilation
..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.
but all (politics have been) in such a way as never to allow a challenge to the principle of debt itself.. never allowing anyone to question the sacred principle that we must all pay our debts..
what is debt anyway? a debt is just the perversion of a promise.. a promise corrupted by both math and violence
i’d say thinking we need a promise is a red flag as well
what sorts of *promises might genuinely free men and women make to one another? at this point we can’t even say.. it’s more a question of how we can get to a place that will allow us to **find out.. and the first step in that journey, in turn, is to accept that in the largest scheme of things, just at no one has the ***right to tell us our true value no one has the ***right to tell us what we truly owe..
*why promise at all.. how can we?
**am thinking we’ll find out we need to let go of promising things
***and of rights ness.. not to mention it would be more that no one has the ability (no one knows)
(on wanting to) influence public debate on issues that really mattered
maybe public debate and things that really matter don’t/can’t actually collide
ie: curiosity over decision making et al
anthropologists are also the only people in a position to make broad generalization that actually could stand up to the evidence.. yet increasingly, we have come to feel it is somehow wrong to do so.. it is seen to smack of a kind of arrogance, even an intellectual imperialism.. it struck me, however, that such a grand comparative effort was precisely what the times were calling for
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..t
the more i puzzled over the question, the more i decided that this was a break on the broadest possible historical scale, and that in order to understand it, we needed to completely rethink our sense of the rhythms of econ history
or.. start a new song.. back to your first point on (lack of) imagining
anthro’s are keenly aware that one cannot speak of ‘econ life’ as an a priori category. even 300 yrs ago.. no such thin as ‘the econ’.. for vast majority of people who have ever lived ‘econ affairs’ were just one aspect of what we’d call politics, law, domestic life, or even religion.. econ language has always been and still is fundamentally moral.. even when it insists it is not.. and a genuine econ history must therefore also be a history of morality..
in all this, probably my greatest inspiration .. marcel mauss.. 1\ he was first to recognize that all societies are such a jumble of contradictory principles.. and 2\ he was one of first to try to combine insights of ancient history w contemp ethnography.. 3\ he tried to provide an alt to myth of barter.. which he id’d as founding myth of our contemp civ..
mauss is a curious figure.. 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)
these questions have come to define what anthro is basically about.. so as a theorist .. successful.. but mauss was also a political activist, cooperativist.. and here his efforts met w almost no success at all..
kept telling self while writing this book – i wanted to write book wanted to write book mauss might have written if he overcame his perpetual disorg and actually wrote one.. one way i’m gratified i have helped realize one of his lifelong goals.. put to rest myth of barter..
zuccotti – largest contingent by far were debt refugees
what i’d like .. to see this book contribute to broader moral reassessment of: debt, work, money, growth, econ.. is it possible that children born today might live to see day when there is no longer an ‘econ’ when we can examine these matters in completely diff terms.. what would such a world even look like ..t
ie: cure ios city
.. 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..t
let me end this afterword.. in similar vein (as way ended book w bow to non industrious poor).. w bow to adam smith – doesn’t come off particularly well in book.. partly because i only talked aobu one side of his philosophy.. his dedication to imagining a kind of utopian vision in which everyone could simply trade fairly, each seeking best advantage,.. then walking away w/o owing anyone anything.. but all this rests on theory of human motivations that assumed people in general were motivate to be object of others’ sympathetic attentions.. people seek wealth because they know that others care more about the well to do.. this is why he thought a free market could work to betterment o fall.. he was convinced ordinary human beings would not be so industrious and so self aggrandizing as to continue pursuing their advantage once a certain comfortable prominence was achieved: that is.. that they would not continue amassing ore/more wealth simply for sake of doing os.. for smith.. pursuit of wealth beyond a point where one had achieved such a comfortable position was pointless, even pathological..
same joke that my grad school adviser marshall sahlins used to tell.. missionary discovers samoan lying on beach ‘and then you wouldn’t have to do anything.. (if you sold stuff and made money).. you could just like on the beach all day)
besides.. sitting on beach isn’t all that makes our souls itch.. we just haven’t been listening deep enough
from notes (at end of book) – weaving back & forth
from ch 1
1\ they weren’t actually built to make it easier for malagasy people to get around in their own country, but mainly to get products from plantations to ports to earn foreign exchange to pay for building the roads/railways to begin with
goes w precise and measuring ness being all about mass ness.. which has nothing ot do w living/fittingness
2\ haiti ws finally forced to pay equiv of 21 bn between 1925-46 during most of which time they were under us military occupation
3\ prisoners expected to furnish full cost of own imprisonment.. if couldn’t .. they simply starve to death
4\ need to assemble money for tax payments has always been most frequent reason for falling into debt
from ch 2
16\ anne chapman .. noting that if pure barter is to be defined as concerned only w swapping objects and not w rearranging relations between people.. it’s not clear that it has ever existed..
from ch 3
2\ for my own take on the labor theory of value.. see toward an anthro theory of value
knapp considered it absurd to attempt to understand money ‘w/o the idea of the state’.. money is not a medium that emerges from exchange.. it is rather a means for accounting for and settling debts, th emost important of which are tax debts.. – ingham
(back to 1109 in book – wizard of oz section): 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).
(back to 1097): 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. 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:
(1109): 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.
(1120): “Oz” is of course the standard abbreviation for “
(1120): 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.
23\ They only became ruby slippers in the movie.
25\ ..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.
as sylvain levi.. marcel mauss’s mentor, remarked, if one takes the brahmanic doctrine seriously ‘the only authentic sacrifice would be suicide’.. but of course no one actually took things that far
53\ my point is that taxes were not inevitable and were often seen as marks of conquest
idea was to overcome the violence of class struggle by appealing to a new moral system based on notion of a shared debt to society – of which the state, of course, was merely the admin and rep
and we’ve shown that doesn’t work.. still tragedy of the non common
from ch 4
5\ marx and weber were of opinion that money emerged from barter between societies .. not w/in them.. bucher and polanyi held something close to this positions.. insisted that modern money emerged from external exchange.. insofar as we can talk about ‘invention’ of money in modern sense.. this presumably would be place to look, though in places like meso this must have happened long before th uses of writing and hence the history is effectively lost to us..
8\ smith and nietzsche anticipate levi strauss’s famous argument that language is the ‘exchange of words’.. remarkable thing here is that so many have managed to convince selves that in all this, nietzsche is providing radical alt to bourgeois ideology, even to the logic of exchange.. of course.. what nietzsche proposes is not an alt at all.. it’s another aspect of the same thing.. all this is a vivid reminder of how easy it is to mistake radicalized forms of our own bourgeois tradition as alts to it..t
we keep saying/thinking we’re trying alts but they are not legit alts.. so we perpetuate tragedy of the non common
13\ not clear what language this was said in, considering that inuit did not actually have an institution of slavery.. it’s also interesting because the passage would not make sense unless there sere some contexts in which gift exchange did operate, and therefore , debs accrued.. what the hunter is emphasizing is that it was felt important that this logic did not extend to the basic means of human existence, such as food..
14\ ie: ganges valley in buddha’s time was full of arguments about the relative merits of monarchical and democratic constitutions.. gautama, though the son of a king, sided w the democrats, and many of the decision making techniques used in demo assemblies of the time remain preserved in the org of buddhist monasteries.. were it not for this we would not know anything about them, or even be entirely sure that such demo polities existed..
19\ at first there were similar debates about whether meso ‘clean states’ were actually enforced, until overwhelming evidence was produce that they were..
20\ every 49 years came the jubilee.. when all fam land returned and fam members who had been sold as slaves set free lev 25:9
21\ the need to borrow was most often sparked by the need to pay taxes imposed by foreign conquerors
from ch 5
3\ in anthropology – first to propose reciprocity as a universal principle – Richard Thurnwald 1916.. but made famous by Malinowski 1922
(from 2342): 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
5\ 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.. t
science of people/whales ness
9\ 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 guaranteeing absolute material abundance… – peter kropotkin’s mutual aid
13\ similarly, a mid class pedestrian would be unlikely to ask a gang member for directions, and might even run in fear if one approached him to ask for the time, but this is again because of an assumption of a tacit state of war existing between them..t
15\ insofar as it is possible to speak of ‘primitive communism’ it exists in consumption, rather than production, which tends to be much more individually org’d
21\ marshal sahlins (his advisor) 1972 – ‘generalized reciprocity’.. to describe this sort of relation on the principle that if everything circulates *freely, eventually all accounts will balance out ..everything balances out freely. .. then marcel mauss.. 1947 – some never balance out.. so.. ‘alternating reciprocity’.. ie: we repay parents by having children
22\ the latin terminology concerning hospitality emphasizes the absolute mastery of the house by its male owners as the precondition of any act of hospitality.. derrida argues that this points to a central contradiction in the very concept of hospitality, since it implies an already existing absolute dominium or power over others, the kind that might be seen as taking its most exploitative form in lot’s offering his own daughters up to a crowd of sodomites to dissuade them from raping his houseguests.. however, this same principle of hospitality can be equally well documented in societies such as the iroquois.. that were anything but patriarchal
25/ in a less hostile vein one can speak of an exchange of prisoners, notes or *compliments
*still as deadly.. keeping us from us
40\ marc bloch adds ‘every act, esp if it was repeated 3-4 times, was likely to be transformed into a precedent – even if in the first instant it had been exception or even frankly unlawful’
47\ actually, there are hierarchical relations that are explicitly self subverting: the one between teacher and student for ie, since if the teach is successful in passing her knowledge to the student, there is not further basis for ineq..
48\ (repeat of 13 on 8499) not clear what the original language was here, considering that the inuit did not have an institution of slavery. also.. passage would not make sense unless were some contexts in which gift exchange did operate and therefore, in which debts accrued.. what the hunter is emphasizing is that it was felt important that this logic did not extend to basic needs like food
59\ ie: word ‘should’ in english, originally derives rom german schuld, meaning guilt, fault, debt
61\ this is one reason why it’s so easy to dress up other sorts of relationships as debts.. say one wishes to help out a friend in desperate need of money but doesn’t want to embarrass here.. usually.. easiest way is to provide money and then insist it’s a loan (and then let both parties conveniently forget it ever happened)
62\ one could argue that some equiv of please and thank you could be id’d in any human language, if one were determined to find them, but then terms you find are often used so differently ie: only in ritual contexts, or to hierarchical superiors.. that it’s hard to attach much significance to fact.. it is significant that over last century or so just about every human language that is used in offices or to make transactions in shops has had to create terms that do function as an exact equiv of english please thank you and you’re welcome
63\ in spanish.. one first asks a favor (por favor) and then says gracias,, in order to affirm you recognized one has been done for you, since it derives from latin gratias.. meaning influence or favor.. appreciate is more monetary: if you say i really appreciate your doing that for me.. you are using a word that derives from latin appretiare .. ‘to set a price’
64\ you’re welcome.. first documented in shakespeare’s time, derives from old english wilcuma, wil being pleasure and cuma being guest.. this is why people still welcomed int a house.. it is thus like be my guest implying that, no, if there is an obligation it’s on my part, as any host is obliged to be generous to guests, and that dispatching such obligations is a pleasure in itself.. still, it’s significant that moralists rarely chide anyone for failure to say ‘you’re welcome.. that one is much more optoinal..
66\ ibn miskaway: ‘the creditor desires the well being of the debtor in order to get his money back rather than because of his love for him.. the debtor, on the other hand, does not take great interested in the creditor’
from ch 6:
3\ by the way, i say young because elsewhere , when slaves are used as monetary units, the unit is assumed to be a slave about 18-20 yrs old.. a cumal was considered the equiv in value of three milch cows or six heifers
4\ cumal used as units of account.. in diff law codes.. when several diff commodities used as units of account.. they will include that country’s most significant exports, and trade currency.. this would imply a significant trade in female slaves in the period just before written records..
6\ alain testart.. does a magnificent job synthesizing the evidence.. though he too.. as we’ll see in next ch.. has some equally strange blind spots in his conclusions
10\ one reason why evans-pritchard originally proposed to change name from brideprice to bridewealth because the league of nations had in 1926 outlawed the practice as a form of slavery
on changing words.. not actually changing laws/practices.. in regard to slavery.. still there.. et al
16\ as the ethnographer puts it ‘they are accepting the cattle only in order to honour him and not because they are ready to take cattle for the life of their dead kinsman’
18\ morgan, a lawyer by training, is using a technical term here, condonation, which the oxford english dictionary defines as the voluntary overlooking of an offense..
unoffendable ness et al
22\ levi-strauss adds that the ordinary way of resolving such murders is for the killer to marry the victims’ wife, adopt his children, and thus, effectively, become the person the victim used to be
25\ douglas estimates that a successful man will have spent at min 300 raffia cloths in payments and given away at least 300 more as gifts, by time he reached full social maturity..
26\ as anthrop’s often note, the fact that one traces descent thru the female line does not necessarily mean that women themselves have a lot of power.. it can; it ddid among the iroquois, and it does among minangkabau right now.. but it doesn’t necessarily
29\ as if to hammer this home, a man was actually considered to be owed a life debt for fathering female children.. that could only be paid by allowing him to take one of his own daughters’ daughters as a pawn.. this only makes sense if we assume a principle that only men can be owed a life.. and therefore, in the case of women, the creation of life was assumed to be given free.. men as noted, could be pawns and many were, but they were never traded..
33\ some village wives were literally princesses, since chiefs’ daughters invariable chose to marry age sets in this way.. the daughters of chiefs were allowed to have sex a anyone they wanted, regardless of age set, and also had the right to refuse sex, which ordinary village wives did not.. princesses of this sort were rare: there were only three chiefs in all lele territory. douglas estimates that the number of lele women who became village wives, on the other hand, was about 10%
note (from google): In anthropology, an age set is a social category or corporate social group, consisting of people of similar age, who have a common identity, maintain close ties over a prolonged period, and together pass through a series of age-related statuses.
39\ main purpose of male slaves was to be sacrificed at important men’s funerals..
54\ herbert estimates that europeans imported about 20 000 tons of english brass/copper into africa between 1699 and 1865.. the vast majority was exchanged for slaves
55\ i base this (# in original passage 55 links to) number on fact that 152076 slaves are known to have been exported from the bight of biafra in those yrs.. the slave trade at old calabar lasted roughly from 1650 to 1841, during which time the port was by far the largest in the bight, and the exports from bight itself during its height rep about 20% of all of africa
60\ one common expedient, esp in early yrs, was for merchants to arrive at village markets w canoes full of wares, exchange them for slaves, and then, if didn’t come up to quota, wait until night and simply attack homesteads along river, carrying off anyone they could find..
77\ remarkably, akiga sai insists that among the tiv, this was the origin of slavery: the seizing of hostages from the same lineage as someone who refused to pay a debt.. say, he says, the debtor still refuses to pay.. they will keep their hostage fettered for a while, then, ,finally, sell them in another country. ‘this is the origin of slavery’..
79\ we don’t know what proportion.. king eyo 2 told a british missionary that slaves ‘were sold for diff reasons.. ie: prisoners of war, debt, breaking country’s laws, some sold by great men who hated them’.. this suggest that debt was not insignificant.. war being most legit
89\ all this is mean in part as a critique of louis dumont’s arguments (1992) that the only truly egalitarian societies are moderne ones, and even those only be default: since 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..t
from ch 7
2\ it is interesting to note that when attempts are made to justify slavery ..starting w aristotle, they generally focus not on the institution.. which is not in itself justifiable.. but on the inferior qualities of some ethnic group being enslaved..t
9\ ulpian is precise: ‘in every branch of law, a person who fails to return from enemy hands is regarded as having died at the moment when he was capture’.. specifies need for remarriage
11\ patterson: slavery as he defines it is the permanent violent domination of natally alienated and generally dishonored persons..
12\ he quotes frederick douglass here to great effect: ‘a man w/o force is w/o the essential dignity of humanity. human nature is so constituted that it cannot honor a helpless man, although it can pity him; and even that it cannot do long, if the signs of power do not arise’
14\ after 800 ad.. dublin briefly largest slave market in europe..
15\ st patrick, one of founders of irish church, was one of few of early church fathers who was overtly and unconditionally opposed to slavery
28\ ‘there is no evidence that goods themselves could be assigned prices. that is, while irish moneys could quantify the status of an individual, they were not sued to quantify the value of goods’ – gerriets
30\ on honor killing..
banaz mahmod et al
43\ this is an interesting ie for early history of wage labor.. .. wage labor contracts in the ancient world were primarily a matter of the rental of slaves – a practice that in meso is first documented only in neo babylonian times
49\ loose bands of pastoral nomads or refugees, who also sometimes doubled as soldiers, were often referred to generically as hapiru or habiru, both in meso and to the west.. this might be the origin of the term hebrew.. another group that according to their own histories had fled from bondage, wandered w their flocks in desert, and eventually descended as conquerors on urban society
51\ i observe in passing the rastafarianism: the main prophetic voice today that makes use of the image of babylon as corruption and oppression -though it does tend to play down the imagery of sexual corruption – has in practice been very much about the reassertion of patriarchal authority among the poor
53\ in sumerian weddings.. brides’ father covers her w veil.. groom would remover it.. it was by this act that he made her his wife.. not only does this demo the degree to which the veil was a symbol of encompassment in some man’s domestic authority; it might also have been the source from which the later assyrian practice was eventually adopted..
54\ another aspect of confucianism was that male slavery was seen as much more dubious than female slavery
56\ needless to say, homeric society lacked the legalistic precisions of the irish notion of ‘honor price’ but the principles were broadly the same, since time could mean not only honor, but penalty and compensation..
57\ time is not used for the price of commodities in the illiand/odysses.. but then prices of commodities are barely mentioned.. it is however used for compensations.. honor price.. the first attested use of time as purchase price is in the slightly later homeric hymn to demeter.. where as seaford notes.. it seems significant that in fact it refers to a slave
64\ the evidence is overwhelming , but until recently has been largely ignored.. llewellyn-jones notes that the practice began as an aristocratic affection, but that by the 5th century , all respectable women ‘were veiled daily and routinely, at least in public or in front of non relations mean
68\ seaford: ‘whereas the homeric gift is invested w the personality of its heroic donor.. the only kind of person that money resembles is the prostitute.. for shakespeare it is ‘the common whore of all mankind..’ (for what it’s worth.. seaford is slightly off here.. shakespeare described the earth as the common whore of all mankind whose womb produces gold which is money..
70\ in the odyssey famously, achilles, when trying to invoke the lowest and most miserable person he can possibly imagine, invokes not a salve but a thete, a mere laborer unattached to any household
84\ krover demos that there was never any formal distinction between gift and loan; the two continually shaded into each other
85\ the two were seen to be connected: herodotus famously argued that for the persians, the greatest crime was to lie, and that they therefore forbade the loaning of money at interest since it would necessarily give rise to untruthful behavior
87\ my reading is strongly influenced here by that of marc shell (1978).. shell’s essay is important, but sadly neglected, as classicists only seem to cite each other (at least on the subject of the classics)
88\ what polemarchus is invoking of course is the logic of the heroic gift, and of the feud.. if someone helps or harms you, you pay them back the same or better.. polemarchus actually says that there are two circumstances when it’s easiest to do this: in war, and in banking..
89\ plato, aristotle, and diogenes were the three most famous philosophers of the 4th cent; the fact that two of the three had the experience of standing on an auction block demos that such things really could happen to anyone.
93\ garnsey has recently made a convincing case that roman jurists did see property as a right (ius) in the sense that one had a right of alienation, and to defend one’s claims in court.. it’s an interesting debate, largely turning on one’s defn of ‘right’
95\ in earliest roman law.. slaves were still people, but of diminished worth ie: injuries against them counted as 50% of a free person.. but late republic, around time of emergence of concept of dominium, slaves had been redefined as res, things, and injuries to them had the sam legal status as injuries to farm animals..
96\ patterson: ‘it is difficult to understand why the romans would want to invent the idea of a relation between a person and a thing .. unless we understand that for most purposes.. the thing on their minds was a slave..
98\ dominus first appears in 111bc dominium, some time later.. keith hopkins (1978) estimates that by the end of the republic, slaves made up 30-40% of italian pop.. perhaps the highest proportion of any known society
now (as probably then) 100% – ie: all whales
101\ saller (1984) on comus vs familia.. the word familia, and its various later european cognates, famille in french, family in english, and so on, continued to refer primarily to a unit of authority and not necessarily of kinship until at least the 18th cent
102\ it would seem that the father’s authority here was considered identical to that of the state
108\ it was only a century later under hadrian (117-138 ad) that owners were forbidden to kill their slaves, maintain private dungeons for them or practice other cruel and excessive punishments.. interestingly the gradual limitation of the power of slave owners was accompanied by increasing state power, expansion of citizenship, but also the return of various forms of debt bondage and the creation of dependent peasantry
111\ kopytoff and miers (1977) emphasize that in africa .. freedom always meant incorporation into some kin group – only slaves were ‘free’ (in our sense) of all social relations
112\ the position that slavery is a product of force enshrined in law, contrary to nature, however, goes back at least to the 4th cent bc, when aristotle explicitly takes issue w it..
114\ ulpian wrote that ‘everyone was born free under the law of nature’ and that slavery was a result of the ius gentium (law of nations) , the common legal usages of mankind.. some later jurists added that property was originally common and the ius gentium was responsible for kingdoms, property, and so on.. as tuck notes, these were really scattered ideas, only systematized by church thinkers like gratian much later, during 12th cent revival of roman law..
115\ similarly under the republic, cicero argued that rulers who insisted on holding the power of life and death were by defn tyrants ‘even if they prefer to be called kings’
118\ to be fair, a classical liberal would insist that this is the logical conclusion w starting out form the notion of freedom as active instead of passive.. that is, seeing freedom no just as others’ obligations to allow us to do whatever the law or custom says e can do, but to do anything that is not specifically forbidden and that this has had *tremendous liberating effects
*we have no idea
121\ i’ve made the argument that wage labor is rooted in slavery extensively in the past.. see eg graeber 2006.. t
122\ the universal declaration of human rights, like just about all similar docs, also speaks of universal rights to food/shelter, but one never read about govts committing ‘human rights abuses’ when they eliminate price supports on basic foodstuffs, even if it leads to widespread malnutrition, or of razing shantytowns or kicking the homeless out of shelters..
126\ the mass killing of slaves at the funerals of kings, or grandees, has been documented from ancient gaul, to sumer, china, and the americas
from ch 8
1\ ‘debt, n: an ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver‘ wrote the notorious cynic ambrose bierce – the devil’s dictionary.. t
2\ it is certainly interesting that since the 19th cent at least the ‘transition from feudalism to capitalism’ has become our historical paradigm for epochal social change, and no one much addresses the transition from ancient slavery to feudalism, even though there is reason to believe that whatever is happening now may much more closely resemble it..t
4\ the aegean coins were stamped; the indian, punched; and the chinese, cast..
from ch 9
7\ promissory notes.. marks were presumably meant to confirm the accuracy of the weight, show it hadn’t been trimmed.. ‘marks would correspond to modern countersignatures on bills/cheques cleared thru business houses’
11\ as i’ve noted earlier, it would be easy enough for the state to ensure that the coins became acceptable currency simply by insisting that they were the only acceptable means of payment for obligations to the state itself..
15\ interesting to note – to our knowledge – the great trading nations didn’t produce much in terms of art and philosophy..t
25\ hence, most of the scandalous stories that sparked uprisings against debt bondage centered on dramatic cases of physical/sexual abuse; of course, once debt bondage was abolished and household labor was instead supplied by slaves, such abuse was considered normal and acceptable.. t
29\ howgego makes this point: ‘if less is head of debt under the principate it may well be because political stability removed the opp for the expression of discontent.. this argument is supported by the way in which debt re emerges as an issue at times of open revolt’
38\ and wage labor, two phenom that, as so often in the ancient world, largely overlapped: the common phrase for workers used in texts from the period was dasa-karmakara, ‘slave hireling’ w the assumption that slaves and laborers worked together and were barely distinguishable.. t
earn a living ness
52\ legend has it that after on pythagorean mathematician discovered existence of irrational numbers, other members of the sect took him on a cruise and dropped him overboard..
64\ he appears to be referring to a distinction originally made by confucius himself: ‘the superior person understands what is right while the inferior person only understands what is personally profitable
then why slavery? (from earlier)
69\ in christianity, at least in augustinian tradition, this is quite explicit: material world does not partake of god.. god i snot in it.. it was simply made by him.. this radical separation of spirit and nature being – according to henri frankfort – a peculiarity of the judaeo christian tradition.. that same augustinian tradition though, also drew on plato to insist that reason, on the other hand – the abstract principle which allows us to understand such things, and which is entirely separate from matter – does partake of he divine.. (hoitenga: conflict in augustine’s own ideas here)
81\ philo of alexandreia.. writing around time of christ, says of the essenes: ‘not a single slave is to be found among them, but all are free, exchanging services w each other, and hey denounce the owners of slaves, not merely for their injustice in outraging the law of equality, but also for the impiety in annuling the statute of nature’
from ch 10
19\ gyan prakash makes point for colonial period: when one time caste hierarchies began to be treated instead as maters of debt bondage, subordinated turned into persons who had equal rights, but whose rights were temporarily suspended
20\ to be fair, one could also argue that indebted peasants are also likely to be in command of more resources, and thus be more capable of organizing a rebellion… china.. where rebellion was almost ceaseless
21\ no one knows just how many rebellions have taken place in chinese history. from official record.. several thousand incidents w/in just 3 yrs 613-615 ad.. probably 1000/yr.. according to parsons, during 1629-44, 234,185 insurrections in china.. averaging 43/day or 1/8/hr
30\ india was actually doing rather well also for most of its history – on comparative standards of living
adding because often think india as poor.. but also because.. who’s deciding standards?
35\ contemp western popular usage ‘karmic debt’ becoming something of a new age cliche.. strikes more chord w euro americans than in india.. whereby results of good/bad actions – karma – ‘endure like a sheet of paper on which a debt is inscribed’ as an unconscious element of the self that passes form one life to another.. compared i to an ‘imperishable promissory note’.. notions of karmic debt taken up in particular by 3 stages/levels school created (by) the monk jsin-hsing
40\ ‘formal’ pawnshops in europe also emerged from monasteries for similar purposes: ‘banks that take pity’
42\ gernet (1956) where he famously wrote ‘the donors of the inexhaustible treasuries were shareholders, not in the econ domain but that of religion’.. as far as i know the only contemp scholar who has fully embraced the premise that this was indeed an early from of c is randall collins.. who sees similar monastic c in later medieval europe as well..
44\ gernet: ‘it is claimed that the purpose of this generosity is to relieve the poor/orphans.. but in fact there is nothing to it but excess/fraud.. this is not a legit business’
50\ laozi speaks of those who can ‘count w/o a tally, secure a door w/o a lock’.. most famously he also insisted ‘when wise men old the left tally pledge, they do not press their debtors for their debs. men of virtue hold on to the tally; men lacking virtue pursue their claims’
52\ similar things happened in england where early contracts were also broken in half in imitation of tally sticks: the phrase ‘indentured servant’ derives form this practice, since these were contract laborers; the word actually derives form the ‘indentation’ or notches on the tally stick used as a contract
59\ one of fav images employed when remembering the rule of the legalists.. was that they constructed great brass cauldrons, in which each law was openly/explicitly spelled out – then used them to boil criminals alive
85\ ..great deal of enlightenment thought traces back to islamic philosophy
92\ on money as social convention to facil exchange.. or as a measure.. and how usury distorts both
105\ ‘if each one after having taken from his personal wealth whatever would satisfy his personal needs, would leave wha twas superfluous to those who lack every necessity, there would be no rich or poor’.. basil
not to mention.. if we all got back/to enough ness.. would be using way less/diff in first place
114\ 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
123\ ‘.. money was intended to be used in exchange but not to increase at interest.. and this term ‘interest’ (tokos), which means the birth of money from money is applied to the breeding of money because offspring resembles parent.. wherefore of all modes of getting wealth this is the most unnatural’ – aristotle politics
getting wealth is the unnatural part – again.. we have to reset away from he rna ness of us.. back to the enough ness of us.. or we’ll just keep spinning our wheels within the tragedy of the non common
127\ situation in venice.. as pioneer.. no merchant guild.. since guilds were essentially protection against govt and in venice.. merchants were the govt
130\ dry exchange: means to get around usury laws.. pay one bill by writing a diff bill due in several months’ time for slightly higher sum.. rates of interest generally quite low.. ie: 12% were highest.. in dramatic contrast to consumer loans..
133\ the appear to have used greek serfs at first and sometimes arabs captured in crusades and only later, africans
138\ also at a time when tech changes, esp invention of crossbow and rise of professional armies, were beginning to render knights’ role in combat increasingly irrelevant..
140\ see schoenberger 2008 for recent/compelling take: comparing role of war mobilization in creating markets in greece/rome to western europe in high middle ages..
143\ on failed attempt by holy roman emperor frederick barbarossa to subdue italian city states and the abandonment of his principle that property can only flow from the king; instead, we have the rise of mercantile private property, which is echoed by financial abstraction..
145\ just about all the great empire building projects of mid ages were work not of professional armies, but of nomadic peoples: arabs, mongols, tatars, and turks
147\ he compares money not only to a postman, but also to a ruler, who also stands outside society to govern and reg our interactions.. it’s interesting to note that thomas aquinas, who might have been directly influenced by ghazali, did accept aristotle’s argument that money was s social convention that humans could just as easily change.. for a while in lat mid ages.. this became the predominant catholic view
153\ but they believe that these formulae summed up or ‘drew together’ the essence of those secret truths that the mysteries revealed ‘symbolon’ being derived (from?) the verb symballein, meaning ‘to gather, bring together, or compare’
whoa.. to compare .. huge .. completely changes with that
154\ only knowledge we have of such symbola comes from christian sources; christians later adopted own symbolon, the creed, and this remained the primary referent of the term ‘symbol’ throughout the mid ages..
155\ ..pseudo dionysius’ works are an attempt to reconcile neo platonism w its notion of philosophy as the process of the liberation of the soul from material creation and its reunification w the divine, w christian orthodoxy..
158\ he calls them, like communion, ‘gifts that are granted to us in symbolic mode’.. from on the celestial hierarchy
159\ on comparing defn of symbolon: a\ tally: two guest friends or contracting parties, broken between them.. each keeping one piece to have proof of identity of the presenter of the other b\ other devises ie: seal on wax for 1\ proof of id 2\ guarantee 3\ toekn of goodwill
161\ there is a curious tension here: the will of heave is also in a certain sense the will of the people, and chinese thinkers varied on where they place the emphasis.. ie: xunzi assumed authority of king based on confidence of people.. also argued confidence of people maintained by contracts ensured by matching of tally sticks under a truly just king, social trust will be such that such objects will become unnecessary
yes to the becoming unneccessary (not to mention deadly in first place) but sans kings et al
165\ on .. why didn’t islamic world develop modern c?.. udovitch’s argument that islamic world never developed impersonal credit mechs.. and ray’s objection that ban on interest and insurance was more important.. carry weight.. also ray’s suggestion that differences in inheritance laws might play a role
168\ in platonic sense: just as physical bird on fruit tree is merely token of general idea of bird.. (which is immaterial, abstract, angelic).. so too various individuals who join together ot make up a corp become an abstract, angelic idea.. kantorowicz argues that it took a number of intellectual innovations to make the notion of the corp possible: notably the idea of the aeon or aevum, external time
170\ ie: islamic law not only did not develop notion of fictive persons, but steadfastly resisted recognizing corps until quite recently
from ch 11
4\ another problem was growth of landlordism.. many smallholders falling in debt to landlords .. as members of ever increasing royal fam and other favored fam’s gained tax exemptions from state.. tax burden on smallholders became so heavy that many felt forced to sell lands to powerful fam’s in exchange for tenancy agreements to free those lands from taxes
5\ chinese historians count 77 diff ‘miners’ revolts’ during 1430-40s
12\ china had its own ‘age of exploration’ in the early 15th cent but it was not followed by mass conquest and enslavement
22\ all this is disturbingly reminiscent of global politics nowadays, in which ie: the un urge poor countries to make ed free and then imf (which is legally part of un) will insists same countries do opposite.. imposing school fees as part of broader ‘econ reform’ as a condition of refinancing the country’s loans
26\ in luther’s time main issue was a practice called zinskauf, rent on leased property which was basically a disguised form of interest bearing loan
29\ this is what capital originally meant.. term itself goes back to latin capitale, which meant ‘funds, stock of merch, sum of money, or money carrying interest’.. it appears in english in med 16 cent largely as term borrowed from italian bookkeeping techniques.. though until 19th cent english sources generally preferred word ‘stock’.. because ‘capital’ was so closely associated w usury
31\ ben nelson emphasized this in an important book, the idea of usury: from tribal brother hood to universal otherhood
33\ public fin at this period largely meant disguised interest bearin gloans form the minor nobility, who were also the stratum from which local admins were drawn
40\ i find myself strongly agreeing w most of muldrew’s conclusions.. only qualifying some ie: his rejection of possessive individualism argument strikes me as unnecessary since i suspect that the latter does id changes that are happening on a deeper structural level less accessible to explicit discourse – see graeber 1977
41\ muldrew estmates that in c 1600, 8000 london merchants might have possessed as much as 1/3 of all the cash in england
compare to ie: 26 richest own as much as – https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jan/21/world-26-richest-people-own-as-much-as-poorest-50-per-cent-oxfam-report
44\ principle of a right to livelihood is key to what ep thompson famously called ‘moral econ of the crowd’.. in 18th cent.. a notion that muldrew thinks can be applied to these credit systems as a whole..
47\ for my own take on life cycle service and wage labor.. see graeber 1977
53\ guth calls these centuries ‘the age of debt’ one which was then replaced after 1600 by an ‘age of contract’
60\ consorting w gypsies was also a capital crime. in case of vagrancy, justices found it so difficult to find anyone willing to press charges against vagrants that they were eventually forced to reduce the penalty to public whipping
66\ i do not want to argue that the more familiar narrative of ‘primitive accumulation’ of the enclosure of common lands and rise of private property, the dislocation of thousands of one time cottagers who became landless laborers, is false.. i simply highlight the a less familiar side of the story. it’s esp helpful to highlight it because the degree to which the tudor and stuart periods were actually marked by a rise of enclosures is a heated matter of debate.. the used of debt to split communities against themselves is meant in same vein as silvia federici’s brilliant argument about the role of witchcraft accusations in reversing popular gains of the late mid ages an d opening the way to capitalism.
67\ ‘personal credit received a bad press in 18th cent.. wrong to go into debt simply to pay for everyday consumption goods.. cash econ celebrated and virtues of prudent housekeeping.. moneylending/borrowing.. bad’ – hoppit
73\ why is it that diamonds are so expensive, though useless, and water which is useful in all sorts of ways, hardly worth anything at all? the usual solution was: diamonds are the eternal form of water (galileo objected to the entire premise, at one point suggested that those who make such claims should really be turned into statues.. that way he suggested, in inimitable renaissance style.. everyone would be happy, since 1\ they would be eternal and 2\ rest of us would no longer have to listen to their stupid arguments)
75\ usher originally intro’d distinction between ‘primitive banking’ (lends out what one has) and ‘modern banking’ (lends more than has.. creating money).. another reason why we have now moved to something other than ‘modern banking’
81\ nicholas barbon (1690) who argues that ‘money isa value made by law’ and a measure in just the same manner as inches or hours or fluid ounces.. he also emphasized that most money was credit anyways
86\ it’s not as if suspicions about money didn’t exist.. but they tended to focus instead o r moral metaphysical issues.. (ie: theft of time)
100\ the very word proletariat in a way alludes to this.. as it’s taken from a roman term for ‘those who have children’
109\ it is on these grounds that testart distinguishes slavery owing to gambling ie: (quote paraphrase) ‘on gambler mentality seeing self as warrior.. risking losing his life in war and taken into slavery.. rather than to that of poor person willing to sell self to survive’
110\ this is why complaints about the immorality of deficits are so profoundly disingenuous: since modern money effectively is govt debt, if there was no deficit, the results would be disastrous..
from ch 12
12\ there is one way us govt can print money.. printing high denomination coins.. since constitution stipulates that only the fed govt can ‘coin’ money.. while highest denom currently is a dollar coin.. there’s no legal reason it couldn’t produce a platinum coin worth a trillion dollars and use it to pay down its debts.. was actually proposed by modern monetary theory advocates during deficit crisis of 2010 and discussed in media.. but apparently never seriously considered by obama admin
13\ perhaps greatest compromise tu us global power in recent years is fact that there is now one place – region of china facing taiwan – where air defenses are now so dense and sophisticated that the us air force is no longer certain it can penetrate at will.. the inability to blow up osama bin laden is, of course, the most dramatic limit to this power..
16\ on iraq, iran and n korea.. switching to euro.. and bush singling them out as ‘axis of evil’
18\ also some debate over oil sales are denominated in dollars..
on dollars and english language as control/enclosure et al
21\ in popular usage nowadays ‘to monetize the debt’ is generally used as synonym for ‘printing money’ to pay debt.. almost universal.. but not original sense of term.. which is to turn debt itself into money
25\ giovanni arrighi: ‘us econ revival of 1990s and continuing dependence of world econ on growing us econ have been based on an increase in us foreign indebtedness that has no precedent in world history. a situation of this kind can hardly be reproduced for any length of time w/o transforming into an outright tribute or ‘protection payment’.. the more than 2 bn (and counting) that the us needs daily to balance its current accounts w rest of world.. and yet us attempts to make the extraction of such a tribute the foundation of a new, and for first time in history, truly universal empire, have failed miserably, creating a situation of global political instability w no precedent since 1920-30s’ arrighi argued it was this very attempt that led to the fin crisis of 2008
29\ credit co’s allowed to observe laws of stated in which they are registered no matter where they operated.. this is why most are registered in s dakota, which has no max interest rate..
30\ first is from thomas friedman in a cocky and vacuous book called lexus and the olive tree
31\ in america this ‘universal otherness’ is accomplished above all thru racism.. this is why most in the us is conducted on ethnic lines: say, korean grocers or dry cleaners, who pool credit w one another, whose clients, however, are sufficiently socially distant that there is no question of extending credit outside, or even expecting basic relations of trust – since they themselves ordinarily expect electricians, locksmiths, contractors of various sorts who provide services to at least attempt to shaft them. essentially the market across racial or ethnic lines becomes one where everyone is assume to be amalek (enemy of the Israelites?)
35\ this is best response to conventional critiques of poor as falling into debt because they are unable to delay gratification – another way in which econ logic, w all its human blind spots, skews any possible understanding of ‘consumers” actual motivations.. rationally, since cds yield around 4% annually, and credit cards charge 29%, consumers should save as a cushion and only go into debt when they absolutely have to, postponing unnecessary purchases until there’s a surplus.. very few act this way but this is rarely because of improvidence (can’t wait to get that flashy new dress) but because human relation scan’t actually be put off in same was as imaginary ‘consumer purchases’: one’s daughter will only be five once, and one’s grandfather has only so many years left..
36\ so many books on subject that one hesitates to cite, but a couple of outstanding ie’s are anya kamentz’s gen debt and.. the larger point about demands for debt as a form of class struggle is in large part inspired by the midnight notes collective, who argue that, however paradoxically, ‘neolib has thrown open a new dimension of struggle between capital and the working class w/in the domain of credit’. i have followed this anal to a degree, but tried to move away from the econ framing of human life as ‘reproduction of labor’ that hobbles so much marxist lit – the emphasis on life beyond survival might be distantly vaneigem influences.. but largely falls back on m own work on value theory (2001)
38\ see for ie: ‘india’s microfin suicide epidemic’ bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11997571
from 2010 article: ‘More than 80 people have taken their own lives in the last few months after defaulting on micro-loans, according to the government. This has triggered the worst ever crisis in India’s booming micro-finance industry.‘
39\ i have observed this first hand on any number of occasions in my work as an activist: police are happy to effectively shut down trade summits, for ie, just to ensure that there’s no possible change that protestors can feel they have succeeded in doing so themselves..
40\ for a transition to no interest banking to work, it would have to be total (after ie’s of all the partial attempts sabotaging each other)
42\ true as i showed in ch 5, econ life will always be a matter of clashing principles, and thus might be said to be incoherent to a certain extent. actually i don’t think this is in any way a bad thing – at the very least, it’s endlessly productive. the distortions born of violence strike me as uniquely insidious..
45\ i can speak w some experience here; i am well known by my friends to be a workaholic – to their often justifiable annoyance – and keenly aware that such behavior is at best slightly pathological, and certainly in no sense makes one a better person
norton productivity law et al
nika tweeted this while i was re re reading
If you like The Godfather, you will LOVE this. @davidgraeber
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/jhumus/status/1330447305892368384
hour long audio via david
and then this also via nika (putting notes/quotes on communism of everyday life page):
Nika Dubrovsky (@nikadubrovsky) tweeted at 5:03 PM on Sat, Jan 09, 2021:
most of these companies have relied heavily on public funding, but so too has the entire process of vaccine development been crucially dependent on what late anthropologist and activist David Graeber used to call the communism of everyday life.
notes from kevin’s:
David Graeber, as we already saw to be the case with Elinor Ostrom, is characterized above all by a faith in human creativity and agency
2\ if we create a way to ground the chaos of 8b free people