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Debt: The First 5000 Years (2011) [audiobook + ebooks]

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This audio book has been reassembled into chapters for your listening convenience!

Length: 17:21 (Unabridged)

Debt: the first 5000 years is a book by anthropologist and anarchist activist David Graeber published in 2011. Graeber analyzes the function of debt in human history. He traces the history of debt from ancient civilizations to our modern-day economic crises, arguing that debt has often driven revolutions and social and political changes. The book has been connected to movements like Occupy Wall Street. The book won the inaugural Bread and Roses Award for radical literature.

Graeber lays out the historical development of the idea of debt, which he claims originated in the first known proto-loan system in ancient Mesopotamia. In this early form of borrowing and lending, farmers would often become so mired in debt that their children would be forced into debt peonage, though they were periodically released by kings who canceled all debts and granted them amnesty under what later came to be known, in ancient Israel, as the Law of Jubilee. Later, Christianity emphasized the moral aspect of debt, but in the 17th century, this changed to a more pragmatic notion of an individual's ability to sell his own work to someone else, thus subjugating the individual to the pursuit of capital rather than the enjoyment of leisure time. By comparing this evolution of debt in our own society to what he calls "human economies," as found among Native Americans, various African peoples, the Malagasy people of Madagascar, and other societies known to anthropologists, all of which, according to Graeber, hold a radically different conception of debt and social relations, he suggests that modern debt crises are not the inevitable product of history and may be changed.


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