What are the basic moral grounds of human economic relations? How does our economic moral behavior work? Is debt a universal present in all human societies? We will explore these fundamental questions with the help of David Graeber's thoughtful, sweeping anthropologically-informed history Debt: The First 5,000 Years. If reading Graeber's 534 page tome is too much (or too little) for you, his article "On the Moral Grounds of Economic Relations" covers most of the argument that we will discuss in this meetup in only 17 pages.
Before there was money, there was debt.
Topics to be discussed include:
- Debt, gift, barter, and other forms of imprecisely calculated Exchange (aka reciprocity)
- Interest, loans, credit, and other forms of debt involving carefully kept books
- Precisely calculated forms of exchange such as markets with their money-based accounting systems
- Hierarchy (Do the social rules governing gift, debt, exchange, trade, etc. differ when it takes place between ruler and ruled, adult and child, owner and patron, rich and poor, or in general between people of different social status?)
- Mutual Aid (which Graeber defines as communism or that form of social service provided "from each according to their ability to each according to their need" which Graeber argues is the basis of all sociability. Note: Graeber rejects the traditional and discredited form of communism with its focus on property instead of morality)
This is the first of two sessions on this topic. The second session on Graeber's book on Debt will be Sunday April 14th. You may attend either session with or without having read the book. If possible, please read at least Graeber's 17 page paper or as much of the book as possible so as to enrich our discussion.