Public Special Events
DEBT - A Lecture by David Graeber
Friday, January 27, 2012 - 12:00pm - 1:30pm
San Francisco Art Institute
800 Chestnut Street
"The anthropologist David Graeber has a strong claim to being the house theorist of Occupy Wall Street. A veteran of the antiglobalization uprisings in Seattle and Genoa, he helped orchestrate the first 'General Assembly' in New York this summer, and has since become one of the movement's most outspoken defenders. ... But Graeber's most important contribution to the movement may owe less to his activism as an anarchist than to his background as an anthropologist. His recent book DEBT: The First 5,000 Years reads like a lengthy field report on the state of our economic and moral disrepair."
-Thomas Meaney, New York Times Book Review
Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter system-to relieve ancient people from having to haul their goods to market. The problem with this version of history? There's not a shred of evidence to support it.
Here, anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that 5,000 years ago, during the beginning of the agrarian empires, humans used elaborate credit systems. It is in this era, Graeber shows, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.
With the passage of time, however, virtual credit money was replaced by gold and silver coins--and the system as a whole began to decline. Interest rates spiked and the indebted became slaves. And the system perpetuated itself with tremendously violent consequences, with only the rare intervention of kings and churches keeping the system from spiraling out of control. Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history--as well as how it has defined human history, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy.
David Graeber teaches anthropology at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He is the author of Towards an Anthropological Theory of Value, Lost People, and Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire. He has written for Harper's, The Nation, Mute, and The New Left Review.
Free and open to the public.
Sponsored by the Urban Studies Program, School of Interdisciplinary Studies, and Graduate Program at the San Francisco Art Institute