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January 2, 2013

Attraverso Review: Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber

Atik_new_SJ.jpgBy Professor Jeffery Atik

Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a grand intellectual project and a call for action. Graeber's book moves debt to the center of political discourse.

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America is built on debt. Indeed, assuming our fair share of debt can be seen as an American duty. We obtain housing, education, transport and medical services through our use of credit -- and as such we spend most of our lives deeply indebted. The root of our notion of freedom (echoed, as Graeber points out, in religious imagery) is freedom from debt -- and if this is so, then by no means is America the land of the free.

Graeber's overview of 5,000 years of debt demonstrates that debt is not a neutral social instrument. Rather debt is first and foremost an institution allowing for the exercise of power. Debt is the foundation of hierarchy and hence much social structure.

Read my full-length review of David Graeber's Debt in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

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