Human-ities · Social/Politics

The History of Debt

Throughout its 5000 year history, debt has always involved institutions – whether Mesopotamian sacred kingship, Mosaic jubilees, Sharia or Canon Law – that place controls on debt’s potentially catastrophic social consequences. It is only in the current era, writes anthropologist David Graeber, that we have begun to see the creation of the first effective planetary administrative system largely in order to protect the interests of creditors.

What follows is a fragment of a much larger project of research on debt and debt money in human history. The first and overwhelming conclusion of this project is that in studying economic history, we tend to systematically ignore the role of violence, the absolutely central role of war and slavery in creating and shaping the basic institutions of what we now call “the economy”. What’s more, origins matter. The violence may be invisible, but it remains inscribed in the very logic of our economic common sense, in the apparently self-evident nature of institutions that simply would never and could never exist outside of the monopoly of violence – but also, the systematic threat of violence – maintained by the contemporary state.

Excerpt from an article written by David Graeber at EuroZine. Continue HERE

Events · Human-ities · Public Space · Social/Politics

Fix-It-Yourself: The Art of Creating Revolutionary Economic Models

Inventing alternative forms of exchange for a fair economy is one of the most crucial creative challenges of our time. The current global economic models and monetary policy are intimating the collapse of the system itself, prompting a new understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of economic theory. The artists on the panel present distinct solutions to alter the way society shares wealth, exchanging resources, goods, and skills through visionary means of trade. In so doing, they propose revolutionary projects for social justice, countering the logic of profit and willful exploitation of instability and inequality.

The panel addresses the deep rooted problems with the conventions and tools of international finance such as the Special Purpose Vehicles, High-Frequency Trading, and even the Bretton Woods system, which has influenced the daily reality of the global population. The artists reject such nonsensical rules and strive to fix the system with new strategies of innovation and subversion, beyond the notions of debt, capital, and even money.

The panelists share their visions by discussing new local and digital currencies, barter schemes, fair finance instruments, and timeshare groups they have been involved in creating. An open debate with the audience follows the presentations. In this lively event, the audience gets involved in brainstorming, imagining, and finding solutions for a large-scale implementation of the models proposed by the artists.

Speakers include Paolo Cirio, Mary Jeys, Jessie Reilly, Gregory Sholette, and Caroline Woolard.

Saturday, June 16, 2012 2 PM
The Kitchen, 512 W 19th Street

Text and Image via Whitney. +++ Info Continue HERE

Human-ities · Social/Politics

On the Invention of Money – Notes on Sex, Adventure, Monomaniacal Sociopathy and the True Function of Economics

David Graeber: Let me begin by filling in some background on the current state of scholarly debate on this question, explain my own position, and show what an actual debate might have been like. First, the history:

1) Adam Smith first proposed in ‘The Wealth of Nations’ that as soon as a division of labor appeared in human society, some specializing in hunting, for instance, others making arrowheads, people would begin swapping goods with one another (6 arrowheads for a beaver pelt, for instance.) This habit, though, would logically lead to a problem economists have since dubbed the ‘double coincidence of wants’ problem—for exchange to be possible, both sides have to have something the other is willing to accept in trade. This was assumed to eventually lead to the people stockpiling items deemed likely to be generally desirable, which would thus become ever more desirable for that reason, and eventually, become money. Barter thus gave birth to money, and money, eventually, to credit.

2) 19th century economists such as Stanley Jevons and Carl Menger [1] kept the basic framework of Smith’s argument, but developed hypothetical models of just how money might emerge from such a situation. All assumed that in all communities without money, economic life could only have taken the form of barter. Menger even spoke of members of such communities “taking their goods to market”—presuming marketplaces where a wide variety of products were available but they were simply swapped directly, in whatever way people felt advantageous.

3) Anthropologists gradually fanned out into the world and began directly observing how economies where money was not used (or anyway, not used for everyday transactions) actually worked. What they discovered was an at first bewildering variety of arrangements, ranging from competitive gift-giving to communal stockpiling to places where economic relations centered on neighbors trying to guess each other’s dreams. What they never found was any place, anywhere, where economic relations between members of community took the form economists predicted: “I’ll give you twenty chickens for that cow.” Hence in the definitive anthropological work on the subject, Cambridge anthropology professor Caroline Humphrey concludes, “No example of a barter economy, pure and simple, has ever been described, let alone the emergence from it of money; all available ethnography suggests that there never has been such a thing.”

Written by David Graeber from his book Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Continue the read at Naked Capitalism.