The groundbreaking international best-seller that turns everything you think about money, debt, and society on its head.
The First 5,000 Years (New and Expanded Edition)
By David Graeber
Before there was money, there was debt. For more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors—which lives on in full force to this day.
So says anthropologist David Graeber in a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Renaissance Italy to Imperial China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong.
We are still fighting these battles today.
“[A] groundbreaking study…opened up a vibrant and ongoing conversation about the evolution of our economic system by challenging conventional accounts of the origins of money and markets; relationships of credit and debt, he showed, preceded the development of coinage and cash.”—Astra Taylor, author of Democracy May Not Exist but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone
“A brilliant, deeply original political thinker.”—Rebecca Solnit, author of Hope in the Dark
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