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Debt and the Origins of Money (Book Discussion)

Why was money invented in Anatolia around 600 BC?  What is the purpose and function of money?  What are the origins of money?  We will explore these questions and review several theories of the origin of money with the help of David Graeber's thoughtful, sweeping anthropologically-informed history Debt: The First 5,000 Years.


Before there was money, there was debt.

Topics to be discussed include:

  • The myth of barter as the origin of money
  • The three functions of money:  medium of exchange, unit of account, and store of value
  • The Credit Theory of Money
  • The State Theory of Money (Chartalism)
  • Primordial Debt Theory
  • Philippe Rospabé's theory of the origin of money which requires an anthropological understanding of "human economies" which rearrange social relations.  This is the theory of the origin of money which Graeber values most.

This is the second of three sessions on this subject. The first session on Graeber's book on Debt was held on April 6th.  The third session on Graeber's book on Debt will be held on May 18th.

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  • Jean S.

    Fabulous job, CJ....... Great participation by everyone in the group. I believe that every thing I do involves the barter system. I have gold from my labors and if I go out to buy carrots I will buy them at the store that has the best deal to give them some of my gold. With my children, neighbors, bankers, doctors, customers - everything it about a sale and a purchase. Money is not the only exchange - it is my time. How much of my time am I going to give away to make a trip to Philadelphia, have lunch with a friend, talk to a stranger on the street and what is the payoff for me. Even movies have come to being able to pause them because a person does not have 90 minutes at one stretch to watch one. Excellent! It was worth the 7 hours that I was gone from the comfort of my home to be a part of the discussion........JS

    1 · April 15, 2013

  • Heidi

    Sorry I can't make it. I have an unexpected family situation I have to deal with.

    1 · April 14, 2013

  • CJ F.

    This is a critical review of Chapter 5 from a discussion group at the University of Leicester. It discusses human economies which are a key part of Rospabe's theory of the origin of money. The questions discussed by the Leicester folks are better than the ones I've thought about. Hopefully I'll remember a few of them for the discussion.

    April 13, 2013

  • Will B.

    Sorry, but i'm now in for one of my own colleagues "no shows" which seem invariably ill-timed. Will try to catch 3rd part of this discussion.

    April 13, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Can't make it this Sunday, maybe next time

    April 12, 2013

  • CJ F.

    This video of David Graeber gets across a bunch of his points about debt. Though it really doesn't go into the origins of money in any depth. It is good background information. He has a very good command of the material.

    April 10, 2013

  • CJ F.

    This critical review of Chapters 3 & 4 of Graeber's book from a discussion group at the University of Leicester covers some of the material we will discuss on Sunday:

    April 10, 2013

  • Virginia S.

    Great idea, cant wait

    April 8, 2013

  • CJ F.

    I changed the topic of this meetup to "Debt and the Origins of Money". The general discussion on Graeber's book on Debt will be on May 18th.

    April 6, 2013

  • CJ F.

    Graeber's book has so reoriented my thinking: "the invisible hand" may refer to Allah, corporations were invented when Christendom still reviled profit and commerce. And much more.

    March 30, 2013

7 went

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