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Sub title: The First 5000 Years

Author: David Graeber

Must we always repay our debts? Wasn’t money invented to replace ancient barter systems? Apparently not, according to Yale-bred anthropologist David Graeber. In a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom, Graeber radically challenges our understanding of debt. He illustrates how, for more than 5000 years—long before the invention of coins or bills—there existed debtors and creditors who used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods. He argues that Madagascar was held to be indebted to France because France invaded it, reminds us that texts from Vedic India included God in credit systems and shows how the dollar changed European society forever in the sixteenth century. He also brilliantly demonstrates how words like ‘guilt’, ‘sin’ and ‘redemption’ derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history—of how it has defined the evolution of human society, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy.

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Book Reviews

“In the best tradition of anthropology, Graeber treats debt ceilings, subprime mortgages and credit default swaps as if they were the exotic practices of some self-destructive tribe. Written in a brash, engaging style, the book is also a philosophical inquiry into the nature of debt — where it came from and how it evolved.” – Thomas Meaney, The New York Times
“One of the year’s most influential books. Graeber situates the emergence of credit within the rise of class society, the destruction of societies based on ‘webs of mutual commitment’ and the constantly implied threat of physical violence that lies behind all social relations based on money.” —Paul Mason, The Guardian
"If you want to get a fresh perspective on the issue, take a look at a fascinating new book called Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber ... not just thought-provoking, but also exceedingly timely." — Gillian Tett, The Financial Times
“The book is more readable and entertaining than I can indicate... It is a meditation on debt, tribute, gifts, religion and the false history of money. Graeber is a scholarly
researcher, an activist and a public intellectual. His field is the whole history of social and economic transactions.” —Peter Carey, The Observer

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Published by

Penguin Books India


17 Sep 2012


Allen Lane



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Indian Subcontinent only







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