m of care – mar 16

DEBT: THE FIRST 5,000 YEARS BY DAVID GRAEBER. Part 11. Chapters 10-11

debt (book) – david graeber – part 11 – ch 10-11



Led and moderated by Steven Bachelor. We will be discussing both the last section of Chap 10 (“What, Then, Were the Middle Ages?”) and the beginning of Chap 11 up to and including Part I (“Part I: Greed, Terror, Indignation, Debt”). Bring your favorite quotes and related material. 

notes/quotes from 70 min video:

steve: mid ages not a time of econ stagnation.. but of transcendence.. allowed for innovation and entrepreneurialism

but we have not yet truly innovated anything.. all same song so far

mufleh humanity lawwe have seen advances in every aspect of our lives except our humanity– Luma Mufleh et al

2 min – steve: reading from p 302 end of ch ‘a *tally does away with the need for witnesses.. if the 2 surfaces agree.. then everyone knows that the agreement between the 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 ie’s.. what the two parties actually agree to create is a relation of inequality of debt, obligation, subordination.. to another’s orders.. this is in turn what makes it possible to use the metaphor for the relation between the material world and that more powerful world that ultimately gives it meaning.. the two sides are the same yet what they create is absolute difference’

*oi – graeber measure law: ‘being truly human means refusing to measure‘ – david graeber.. tally ness et al..

**language as control/enclosure et al..

***oi.. 10-day-care-center\ness et al

3 min – steve: i found this to be a really fascinating image because it gets at something that at least those of us in the us.. something that those of us who have gone thru middle school with friendship necklaces/bracelets.. all know that you snap in half and it fits back together.. so something we all just intuitively understand.. at least in this country.. if you take that a step further thought.. that relation in its similarity can nonetheless have relations of ineq built into them because of what they might tacitly represent or come to mean

4 min – steve: and so when 2 parties do have a tally.. even though there isn’t a need for a witness.. no inherent need for a 3rd party or a state when 2 parties are in agreement.. in coming to agree.. they’re coming to actually agree upon a kind of hierarchy..t and so in the structure is the meaning.. such an apt way of speaking of the larger relationships that is this tension between the human condition and how we typically understand it.. a relationship of salvation and redemption which needn’t be inherent

again.. graeber measure law et al

5 min – steve: what speaks to me consistently about this book is that at every turn .. even what might seem to be an elementary issue has w/in it the microcosm of the larger study of any given place.. so he’s actually modeling the kind of transcending he’s unpacking as he writes

6 min – christian: starts with equality.. then contract and equality is lost.. then only *once contract is fulfilled equality is regained.. and he took it a step further.. because can’t have a tally w something that is beyond our world.. the material world.. everything out there you cannot touch.. there’s no way you as an individual can be equal.. so ineq is the only appropriate way to step into a relationship.. but in that case it’s not bad because there’s no other way.. but when you have 2 humans involved there’s always the potential for abuse.. while in case where go into contract with the universe it’s maybe a step toward enlightenment because you understand something you don’t by giving something up.. and only when we take it back to human level is potential for abuse.. until then just you and the universe.. made ref.. almost magical.. beyond our reach.. when we start from here.. it’s ok.. only when take it to human level abuse comes in

*oi.. bauwens contracts law et al.. 10-day-care-center\ness et al

8 min – stas kraev: there is a quote closer to end of ch where he summarizes mid ages.. and one of description statements ‘mid ages.. everywhere return to hierarchy and soc orders of hierarchy see debt as something that threatens hierarchy because debt implies potential equality and potential equality between soc classes means potential dis.. the dream of fact that you could destroy hierarchy.. if think about relationship between you and universe as something that could be cancelled thru equality by paying up debt.. they modeled stratus on same as universe.. farmers could never cancel debts.. because could never become equal.. can never give enough.. .. it is also at end why capitalism didn’t happen elsewhere.. merchants become collective immortal.. mimic mech of soc strata.. of merchants.. debt is foundation of their status

12 min – steve: today’s session is kind of strange.. end ch 10 and begin ch 11.. so deliberately chose quote from end of ch 10.. what is it in graeber’s view that distinguishes capitalism.. i was initially surprised/frustrated.. then figured out how to make sense of it.. i didn’t find there to be an actual soc sci defn of c.. then realized what he was getting at.. that c is a form of gambling/gambit.. where there are stakes that aren’t infinite but seemingly infinite.. ie: if willing to stake entire future.. but requires enslavement and bullion because essentially going back to a military enslavement currency complex.. so what’s unique about c.. is not c itself.. but the ‘discovery’ of the new world.. because allowed for unprecedented level of enslavement.. people from homeland.. most profound level of social debt ever experienced.. in a way that was backed up by an institutional regime that absolutely erased the existence of the enslaved people.. in a way that in ancient time hadn’t been done.. so c is ability to gamble.. and will be winners/losers.. comes back to honor complex in gains in sex/violence

15 min – simona: actually david fought all his life against idea of naturalizing c.. he said there is a diff indeed. and let’s look at where is this diff between specific form we have today and credit system of ancient egypt world.. he says in begin of 11 ch ‘what was the diff w europe.. the far west.. was warfare.. which europeans are very good at.. the other diff.. i don’t remember where.. is a very specific idea of private property.. property at the exclusion of everybody else.. and the property of money/debt.. so p 314.. there is a passage that is very interesting on moral dangers in naturalizing c and saying its what everybody would have done in similar conditions .. he says.. ‘there are moral dangers here.. to take what might seem an objective econ approach.. the origins of the world econ would be to turn the behavior of early european explorers/merchants/conquerors.. as if they were simply rational responses to opportunities.. as if these were just what anyone would have done in same situation.. this is what the use of equations so often does.. make it seem perfectly natural to assume.. t that if price of silver in china is twice what in savina.. et al.. then they transport of china.. even if causes destruction of entire civ.. inevitable that some will enslave.. history makes it quite clear that this is not the case’

huge.. of math and men ness.. graeber violence/quantification law et al

21 min – christian: this later comes up in doe.. you have a choice.. you don’t have to necessarily behave in one way.. how did we lose the ability to act differently.. that would be my add on to what simona just said.. but i’d like to go back to merchants taking over thru issuance of credit.. time of transcendence was a time of materialism.. sounds like that’s the moment god got killed.. had to take that what was beyond reach.. they had to take it back.. as long as people fine w defining own relationship w beyond.. once you took back idea of money.. age of transcendence is over.. no convo w the beyond any more.. the beyond is the merchant and the banker.. something important here.. 1\ just material/now 2\ beyond.. and now.. no beyond anymore.. mid ages in english are commonly called dark ages.. in german.. my language.. that doesn’t exist..

dawn of everything (book).. graeber and wengrow freedom law et al

25 min – nika: adding to what christian said about god.. talk w simona .. intro of beauty/ideal.. idea of artists almost as rep of god.. this perspective.. not just that god died and merchants replaced them.. very complex world of math/sci was born.. also notation.. music composition.. basically built from diff gods.. but very violence ones … to .. outcome of praying to god is war.. so war connected to idea of how world built.. so i wonder if david’s last book on war is related to last ch of debt.. i’d be interested if someone would develop more connection between violence and debt.. t and how it unfolded during birth of capitalism.. because it wasn’t before

graeber violence/quantification law: ‘when one looks a little closer, one discovers that these two elements—the violence and the quantification—are intimately linked‘ – david graeber in debt

debt = quantification.. any form of m\a\p

28 min – michael: on simona on the transition from mid age to c.. the argument is that china went off paper and went to silver then needed more.. is that an origin or just a help of what was already happening.. where was that debt cycle coming from.. who did they owe money too

30 min – nika: yeah.. like italians were ones w great art and loaning to everyone

31 min – michael: this high debt increases idea that you owe (too much) so have to pay w body.. enslavement process from high debt.. so if lose tally stick.. *what’s so special about a silver coin that can tangibly be brought back and encourages more violence..t i guess in credit have to have a relationship where with silver can just take it

*because it’s a more precise means/tool/defn of quantification

32 min – nika: yeah.. disappearance of the social relationships.. ie: roman roads destroyed people who lived in communities.. social credit disappears

but it’s gone with tallies.. and credit.. any form of m\a\p as well..

stas: if can just take it.. why do you have to ship it to someone else

nika: because not about gold/silver.. they’re useless..

33 min – stas: i wanted to unite a thread from steven and simona’s moral dangers.. et al.. 1\ i had quite opp experience in reading these ch’s in terms of explanation of c.. i wasn’t satisfied by explanation of social tuity.. what we offer about c is extended ness.. buries any attempt of trying to understand.. what happens in this sub chapter.. we are shown some kind of warrior who’s owner depends on his being one step of creditor.. in relationship of endless debt.. not able to pay is deeply immoral/shameful/indignant.. even start criminalizing debt in social strata.. can get hanged for it.. at same time.. people w endless debt w someone you have to pay.. collective c.. to be in this relationship criminal offense.. your humanity is held in collateral.. have to pay back to become human again.. to become that which you think you are.. ie: everything they blunder they ship back to creditors.. cortez sending all back to europe.. because you have to pay your debts.. it’s our understanding of social universe.. we owe something to each other.. then have *moral confusion between you must and you can’t..t it’s immoral not to try to pay infinite debt.. but immoral to dream about finally paying it.. becoming equal to universe.. thinking that laziness if theft (to small business owner) because can only start business by accepting position of debtor.. profit has to cancel debt.. they chase infinite profit to offset infinite debt.. to fail to do that is to be deeply immoral person.. when employee lazy.. miss out on profit.. which means someone will be parenting you (subord)..

40 min – simona: 1\ quote from page 282 (319 in new edition) ‘money always has potential to become a moral imperative unto itself.. allow it to expand and it can quickly become a morality so imperative that all others seem frivolous in comparison.. it is a peculiar feature of modern c.. to create social arrangements that essentially force us to think this way.. ie: the structure of the corp.. execs make decisions.. et al.. morally bound to ignore considerations.. all responsibility is to provide max return..’ .. what nika was talking about.. this is the kind of feature of c that makes a system of it.. not only irrational but even moral.. in this system to think of retired persons that would lose everything if you don’t (?) econ rationality

43 min – simona: 2\ the other thing.. i’m reading about possessive individualism.. what strikes me is that he stresses many times that the hobbesian logic is totally logical if you understand that there is an assumption between the mechanical body/foundation.. and the need for social agreement that helps violence in society.. what creates the kind of society that hobbes describes.. he’s so logical.. a society where the few have lots of power/greed.. want to overcome others.. violence to get more/more money.. are allowed w/o a social way to stop them.. rules like forbidding usury.. so war of everybody to everybody that hobbes describes is the logical result of this kind of society.. the few reminds me of something we found in earlier ch about slavery where david says ‘what would happen if aliens came and asked for place paying no matter what.. it’s enough to have a few people to enslave others to have a disaster’ .. so ver point is we have a system that on one side makes obstruction the moral rule.. makes it moral to c.. on other side.. society that has no rules against.. what david says about mid ages is where we had a society based on credit we can have social arrangements totally diff from it

48 min – michael: idea of trust.. literately because of credit system.. takes time to pay back.. where w cash.. doesn’t take time don’t need trust.. on using money to make more money.. that political power .. money was always a form of political power.. in axil age.. whereas in c.. money comes w set of rules that exists by self.. this is the enforcement of law.. ie: in c who will collect debts.. what are the physical features that make that abstraction possible.. ie: that owing is a number that has to be repaid and don’t talk about social relationships involved.. so hidden.. in credit system can’t really do that

50 min – nika: so don’t have mech to really enforce this debt payment.. can only be done by govt.. in courts.. never between people.. always between people and some higher power.. govt themself can be in debt .. but previously not able to.. now king owe some to everyone.. american govt owe us some money.. not we owe govt

51 min – michael: helps to look at that.. what extraction means.. social system where you can enforce that

nika: and i think now has come to situation in world where everything is going to be destroyed.. biosphere .. worst form of war.. total annihilation..

52 min – stas: on kings starting owing money.. biggest insight from entire ch.. so.. how it happens (david doesn’t say.. am saying myself)..

53 min – (michael on black out with coin).. nika: 3000 people a year dying in uk from not being able to put coin in the hitting post

54 min – stas: so debt reversal.. punish self by returning you more than i’ve taken.. et al.. then kings promises start being traded away as money.. reps a share in the profit of certain political unit..

56 min – stas: 1st c’s are people who hold these kings debts.. diff that typical landlords.. they receive their reward.. in c .. only get share of growth.. so kind of landlords.. but rewarded for being productive landlords.. so get antagonism between lazy landlord who gets rent regardless of what he’s doing and productive landlord who has to work .. only then gets rent.. in that sense we have c as way of defining a good landlord.. bad landlords lazy.. good landlords productive.. so c is just a praise of productive landlord.. ie: i’ve been involved in trying to buy house in new zealand.. if want to be lazy.. can rent out for 500 or can work for it.. do airbnb and improvements.. then can make more..

1:00 – christian: disagree a bit w productive landlord.. unproductive would be hit by bad crops.. so not always making money.. and other side.. productive landlord.. ie: islam.. forbidden from doing the stuff what became finance here and they still made money.. i think you’re onto something.. but.. had to be at risk.. then could have money.. that’s the diff here

1:02 – christian: on what simona said on hobbes – war of everybody vs everybody.. early on in bible.. giving credit to somebody is an act of war.. only allowed to give money to other tribe.. but couldn’t lend money to another jew.. that would be considered war.. everyone allowed to lend everyone money at interest.. once rid of usury.. allowed people to make risk free money.. lend it out.. everyone in debt.. maybe what happened here is coincidence of highly unlikely things happening at same time.. happened at right moment in time to create starting base for c.. got things going then whole thing started running

1:05 – michael: idea of .. how did this all get started.. tendency to create a theory.. ‘this is why people did something’.. there can be a structural frame w/in which you look.. then harder not to do something.. easier for some people to look at situation p 314 ‘any number of civs to wreck havoc.. but almost none actually did so’.. hard to say civ makes choice.. can say individual makes choice.. can limit view of choices.. and what stas was saying.. adam smith saying rentier not a good thing.. didn’t do anything for econ.. may claim that’s going on now.. like we left c because rentier of money

1:08 – christian: some people call this managerial feudalism

managerial feudalism et al

steve: i suppose this will be a topic we take up in next session.. where headed.. ie: greater level of freedom but w/in hierarchies.. next time full discussion of c.. then next session what follows









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