Category Archives: graeber

Stray notes from reading of David Graber’s Debt, in progress

Reading it on an iPad, which is stupid and I deserve all the inconvenience that causes, but it drove me to take some notes on the inside of a few matchbooks.

1. Money as honor, not as value measure. Money initially measures status; only later is it mobilized as a medium of exchange. It never attains the social neutrality we want to ascribe to it that would suit capitalism and its ideal of rational, frictionless exchange for everyone and for always. It remains a moral measure, a socially constructed means to express moral superiority.

2. Slavery as destroying social relations of contingency, allowing for abstract and purely instrumentalized relations between people; slavery as precedent for later “freedom” of bourgeois urban life (as Simmel sort of depicts it) — anonymous encounters and exchanges mediated by money and trust embodied in money, permitted exchange without personal relationship or embedded networks of intricate and structuring obligations. So the roots of debt in slavery masked by the incipient ideology of freedom as convenience of the ties and obligations of reciprocal relations with other people. It’s probably too much of a leap, but I’ll suggest it anyway: Slavery produces convenience. At the ideological level anyway

Chariot of the Gods? as metaphoric/mythic recasting of absurdity of economies organized around slaves digging up precious metals to give to soldiers to enslave more miners. What should society be organized to accomplish? Certainly not that, though in practice such a system may have evolved to permit the reproduction of hierarchies. Seems this is the function of debt, not the mobiization of productivity for some humane end.