Rating: 5/5

Book cover

David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years (New York: Melville House, 2011).

I really, really enjoyed this book. This is not a manifesto. It’s an honest-to-goodness anthropological history of money, debt, and everything that goes with it. What I love about the book is how it builds. After going through all the history, when he finally gets to modern times, everything makes sense, without him having to spell it all out. You’re able to make your own conclusions at that point. If you’re looking for answers, you won’t find them here. He doesn’t claim to know some magical way to make everything better. History makes it quite clear, though, that capitalism as we know it can’t last much longer. How things will look after everything collapses is essentially up to us.

The book may be challenging for those unaccustomed to reading historical texts of this type. You may be tempted to jump to the end. Try to resist the urge as best you can. The clarity of that last chapter after having plowed through the preceding 300+ pages is well worth the effort. (The best part? A complete academic bibliography! It’s loaded with great stuff!!)

This book really resonated with me. It gave me lots to think about. I actually need to read it a few more times. I could feel my brain missing all sorts of stuff. This is definitely one for my bookshelf. I think everybody should read this book.