Sunday, February 19, 2012
Pics and Graeber
I've just finished reading David Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 Years (2011, Melville House Printing, New York). I was particularly interested to read it because my interest in the concept and function of money partly evolved as I studied Mexico's foreign public debt in the early 1980s, which forced me to think a lot about debt and, by implication, money. The final chapter of Graeber's book covers the period since 1971, when the USA moved away from the gold standard. Graeber argues that our household debt generates compulsion to work for money, that say through superannuation schemes we have been 'encouraged to buy a piece of capitalism' (p. 376) and that our 'new global currency is rooted in military power even more firmly than the old was' (p. 368).
In the last few pages Graeber talks about the need for 'jettisoning of much of our accustomed categories of thought' or 'we're likely to destroy everything' and that we need 'to move toward a society where people can live more by working less', talking about the 'non-industrious poor' in much the way we have in our book 'as pioneers of a new economic order that would not share our current one's penchant for self-destruction' (p. 384). Again, in the last paragraph, the pointer is (unconsciously) in our direction, as Graeber decides that freedom is 'the ability to make real promises' determined in values of our own making rather than in abstractions, such as money (p. 391).