m of care – feb 16

debt (book) – david graeber – part 9 – ch 10


The @museumofcare reading groups have been my life’s most stable and fulfilling events for the past 3 years. DEBT: THE FIRST 5,000 YEARS BY DAVID GRAEBER. Part 9. Chapter 10 https://youtu.be/SHz0rKP8YNs via @YouTube


notes/quotes from 73 min video:

9 min – steve: david really demo’s how closely related buddhism is w merchant ism.. the compare to confucian ism keeping people form that.. most people wouldn’t think to consider.. the diea that would could be pro market and anti capitalist is still pretty difficult for people to make sense in the us

10 min – joseph turner: i’d like to learn more about how that actually happened.. ie: confucian bureaucracy viewed merchants as parasites.. but i imagine there must have been more than common sense for capitalists teaming up w the state

12 min – steve: on creative refusal that kept being reiterated.. so tendency to put measures in place to prevent merchants and state authorities from having kind of power they can when they fuse.. because then no escape from that power.. gets to david’s entire intellectual project.. civs that practice a level of prefigurative politics that western scholars have lost sight of because of this social evolutionist argument about hunter gather leading to civilization et al..

david on creative refusal

14 min – steven greenspan: perhaps the fusion of those two groups led to the renaissance where you have very trade guilds running both the military.. govt.. and market..

15 min – steve: he says after 1450s.. fuse into one and that’s been case since 1492.. developments already in place.. he’s arguing they’re already in place by 1300s.. merchants connected to bankers connected to royal houses.. but he’s expanding the temporal scope so widely.. he’s showing what the m’s did was take advantage of the opps where state and market were not fused.. they were able to fuse them.. and that historically became ‘innovation of capitalism’ when all it really is is just another rehearsing of state and market authorities incestuously joining and limiting opps for anyone who isn’t part of their team and that was able to diminish from 600-1450 because it had extended to such a point where people were walking away from demands placed on them because of the inherent contradictions of a bouillon system.. what he’s getting at is there’s always going to be a discrepancy if people use a logic of exchange, redemption, salvation.. to understand what is essentially an existential question..

marsh exchange law et al.. graeber exchange law.. graeber violence/quantification law et al..

17 min – steve: our exhistence need not be understood thru the logic of exchange..t and yet there are these time these big phases.. epochs.. of history.. where precisely that logic uses.. and it isn’t inevitable.. it’s just that we’ve come to understand human history falsely as this kind of narrative since 1300 that we now mistake for all of human history

18 min – steven greenspan: kropotkin makes a lot of the same obervations in mutual aid.. he also talks about that transition in similar terms.. i think graeber is much more detailed and drills down much deeper into what that transition meant and how it’s related to debt

19 min – ed pope: i don’t remember graeber talking a lot about the religion.. if seeing development into middle ages in those terms.. people walked away from the classical era societies.. what was the triumphs of these religions? people trying to get away from previous system.. or a method the ruling classes were using to deal w what people were doing?

21 min – steve: i think at a certain stage the kind of logic of exchange that requires this infinite reproduction of materialism.. at a certain point it’s going to hit a threshold and it’s going to be untenable.. and so i think certain actors try to find ways of navigating that system.. and out of that dislocation arise new innovations and new ways of resolving those contradictions.. so yeah.. i think this works in a variety of ways.. not just driven by masses.. but also as elites/statemakers/marketeers are trying to manage their worlds so they can stay on top

22 min – ed pope: when i read this i’d never heard history this way before.. it’s only 10 yrs old but i don’t think there’s really a development of these ideas.. at least tell me about it if there is apart from this group

23 min – steve: there is a growing number of scholars who are testing his frameworks out.. at least works i’ve seen really give a strong endorsement to understanding the big sweeps of history.. esp in relation to debt.. debt is ultimately a moral system and humans in creating meaning.. *all we’re really doing is creating value/moral systems and why is it we think our existence ought to be understood in logic of exchange.. there’s nothing inevitable or even natural about that.. and yet.. even the idea of the transmigration of soul.. there’s kind of an exchange.. that’s an idea that doesn’t sound materialistic and yet.. t

*marsh exchange law.. graeber exchange law.. graeber make it diff law.. et al..

sans any form of m\a\p

24 min – steve: david’s take on materialism is that imagination is itself materialed and that it’s been quite falsely understood.. it’s not been amplified enough where it’s understood in material ways.. but if we think of human behavior as actions w intent.. then we can call it immaterial labor .. but still it’s a form of interpretive labor *that deserves to be measured and factored in to our understandings of change over time

(to me) rather *deserves to not be measured graeber measure law et al

literacy and numeracy both elements of colonialism/control/enclosure.. we need to calculate differently and stop measuring things

25 min – steven greenspan: but once you start to rep exchange as a kind of transaction.. what david seems to say at end of ch which is really brilliant is how that gets converted into a means of maintaining/establishing hierarchy.. so maybe the real contrast isn’t between materialism and something that’s non material but between systems that tend to enforce/create hierarchy and systems that tend to act against those hierarchies.. t and that seems to be what’s being established as we move from mid age to renaissance.. is that the debt systems are reaffirming the unequal relationships between the lender and the borrower

26 min – steve: i think you’ve hit on it perfectly .. *exchange doesn’t need to imply hierarchy.. and yet it can be used in a way that creates/reproduces hierarchy.. so what is the diff

yeah.. (to me) *it does.. ie: marsh exchange law (all trade must benefit those powerful enough to recip).. graeber exchange law (origins of money to demo how the very principle of exchange emerged largely as an effect of violence).. et al

in debt (book) – ch 4


the one thing that all these misconceptions have in common, we will find, is that they tend to reduce all human relations to exchange.

(will address in ch 5) – origins of money to demo how 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

steve: when is exchange not hierarchy.. well.. even as a gift there’s hierarchy there.. because of the obligation..t

and that’s not slight info/insight.. that’s huge.. to creating conditions where all of us could be legit free.. need them to be sans any form of m\a\p

gift\ness.. obligation ness

27 min – steve: but if we think of exchange in ways that try to get us beyond just automatic hierarchy..david mentions.. exchanges that are transactions where you just then walk away.. those are homo economicus behaves.. but then other kinds of exchanges.. like gifts are relational exchanges.. where under a transaction everybody is supposed to be made better off .. both people are made simultaneously in that act of relating to one another.. david brings this up in theory of value.. *piaget asked.. why then are humans so prone to relating to people thru an object that is not the person.. why does it require this 3rd object.. basically parallel play.. that means developmentally haven’t gotten passed stage of play associated w infants.. why do humans need this 3rd thing to fixate on?.. because if someone owns it.. they just established hierarchy.. so in this system.. that kind of fetishism is inherently immature.. so any kind of material accumulation of fetish.. is just infancy.. according to piaget, salhlins, turner, graeber.. the moral cosmology is sound and holds up developmentally.. but **what hasn’t happened is that synthesis of using this framework to go back and then revisit history.. that’s why i’m so pained everyday by the loss.. there’s a whole research agenda that for him would have been fairly easy to do but for the rest of us a lot of hard work piecing together the thinking

*to me that’s grave whalespeak

**to me.. if he were still here.. he might either explain.. or come to see.. that’s why we need to let go of any form of m\a\p.. ie: saying ‘developmentally lower stage’.. is whalespeak.. we have no idea what legit free people are like.. what not yet scrambled ness is like (even though still inside each one of us.. and even visibly apparent in the young and old.. if we were only quiet enough to hear/see it).. ie: a nother way sans any form of m\a\p

theory of value.. graeber values law et al

31 min – peter kurze : i think you see that in the reaction to the debt crisis in us.. thought of jubili met w horror/anger.. reps a direct maintenance of hierarchy.. on the nature of gifts as opposed to transactions..

32 min – nika: would be interesting to ask students to expand on ie’s from own culture.. because most people applying now are from western unis.. would be cool to involve a totally new group of people

33 min – steve: reminds me of one of things david said early on in book.. p 10 or something.. ‘one of great universals of humankind.. this universal hatred of people who are money lenders and esp ones who lend at rates’.. yeah.. that would be a wonderful.. there are a lot of developments going on w micro loans and micro financing.. some are deliberately using structures of c to alleviate poverty so one wonders.. but others going on that are definitely grass roots efforts.. where i think david’s work w braintrust.. i would imagine he would have interest in it.. but haven’t seen where he’s written about it (micro finance)

microfinance et al.. still cancerous distraction.. any form of m\a\p

perhaps let’s try/code money (any form of measuring/accounting) as the planned obsolescence w/ubi as temp placebo.. where legit needs are met w/o money.. till people forget about measuring

35 min – steven greenspan: i wonder if it’s worth thinking about contrast he makes of market system in muslim world vs other market systems.. that premise of mutual aid being foundation and moral foundation for markets.. even w/in gift exchanges.. ie: his story of french explorer in arctic.. given lots of meet.. and neighbor says don’t thank me.. this is mutual aid.. otherwise get into slavery.. because then get into exchanges w each other.. so mutual aid as foundation for exchanges.. i wonder how that’s understood today.. in muslim societies and also going back to those sources.. and see how they translate in today’s world.. if you start with competition as foundation for market going to make very diff kinds of moral decisions

david on mutual aid: Kropotkin’s response—that cooperation is just as decisive a factor in natural selection than competition—was not entirely original. He never pretended that it was.

37 min – steve: esp if start from assumption that there’s a finite number of resources and infinitely expanding number of would be consumers.. makes it easy to do distasteful things to people

steven greenspan: but if premise is mutual aid you’re led in an entirely diff direction

(to me) mutual aid leads to same song

mutual aid from wikipedia: In organization theory, mutual aid is a voluntary reciprocal exchange of resources and services for mutual benefit. Mutual aid projects can be a form of political participation in which people take responsibility for caring for one another and changing political conditions.

yeah.. i don’t think legit free people would be a part of that.. all the red flags

39 min – steve (on prefig politics): basically the idea that instead of assuming we’re all competitors out for own individual ends.. should think of ourselves as a body w individual needs.. but where the diversity of the group can be embedded and there’s a collective whole.. so there’s both multitude and a molecule.. individual and group.. that’s an inherent tension .. if individual in a group.. at some point individual starts and stops and the group starts and stops.. so always something that distinguishes individual from group.. and those differences should be allowed for in a way where there’s mutual aid..

that’s in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows

and maté trump law and brown belonging law.. and thurman interconnectedness law.. et al

41 min – steve: *if i have my own individual needs.. at some point that’s going to bump up against the multitude/collective.. we can expect that.. so we should already have in place some means that allow us to work thru that process..t because what happens every time in vanguard politics .. a non prefig politics.. in vanguard.. got a padre of most elite.. that rest of us follow along with.. so reproducing very thing led revolution to.. so account for that by building alt/additional means so means don’t become the direct ends.. so the ends don’t justify the means.. means allow for collab mutually defined and reached means.. there is not end in prefig politics.. only a means.. if there’s an ends.. that’s not mutual aid.. that’s someone else’s politics.. so there’s always a defining of community but where prefig/deliberately defining community.. allows at every turn.. that prevent concentration of power in hands of few..

*ie: imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness

43 min – steve: i would argue .. and i think david would agree.. that the only time this has ever happened is when women are in charge.. and that even then .. it can and does happen.. until you’ve got the people in it for own ends.. who then.. just takes a few people.. start conspiring.. so that’s been the danger of marxist politics.. marxism is a mode of anal.. can find people who claim know how to apply mode better than others.. whereas anarchists is an ethics of practice.. where ones who are best at it are .. if david were alive i’d ask him.. but david had ample opps to become bigger celebrity than he became.. but if he were to let that happen.. no longer an anarchist.. so i think.. he would not deliberately dominate the airspace..

gershenfeld something else law et al

45 min – nika: i don’t know how to answer.. he didn’t even feel like a celebrity.. he was just doing his stuff.. he was never in situation where presented a choice to take over.. also because he was constantly dealing w own research.. he was never saying.. i know answer and i want everybody to make it work.. he was always pursuing new things.. ie: after bs jobs.. and everybody wants him to do same stick.. that’s probably how you become a celebrity.. because repeat so much.. but david would just reply.. ‘just read the book.. i’ve already said all i want to say’.. esp because he was trying to live as if he was already free.. it wasn’t done for trying to leave some rules.. he wanted to be free himself

47 min – steven greenspan: so we should resist graeberism.. we should not become graeber ists

48 min – steve: simona early on wrote an article called against graeberian ism.. because there was a worry from us that we would.. i’m guilty of it.. i will use graeberian as a noun/adj.. it’s a short hand for an ethnographic method that he did not invent.. and he would say that.. and so would turner.. but i’m already guilty .. of associating certain ways of thinking w individuals.. david would be first to say.. no monastic mind.. only collective mind.. one of good about david .. he knew what was universal and what was his.. and if already free.. don’t need to be shackled by celebrity ness

beyond the monastic self.. the it is me.. i’m never just me

51 min – ed pope: i’m a graeberiste.. debt and dawn

mark fuller: living as if already free was title he wanted for the democracy project book and was not allowed to use that.. that summarizes the prefig politics precisley

the democracy project.. as if already free ness

52 min – nika: and that’s supposed to be policy of new braintrust.. as steve described.. language ‘do this or else’ govt and state good at that.. respond to that..

57 min – joseph turner: reading form emma goldman’s anarchism and other essays ‘there is no conflict between indivdiual any more than heart and lungs.. individual is heart of society.. society is the lungs’

anarchism and other essays:

can’t find the quote he read.. but this one resonating with convo:

p 20: Only when the latter becomes free to choose his associates for a common purpose, can we hope for order and harmony out of this world of chaos and inequality.


talking imagine if we ness in order to org around legit needs.. get at curiosity over decision making.. et al

1:06 –




in my notes:

ch 10 starts 5167

ch 10: the middle ages (600ad-1450ad)




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