What is Debt? – An Interview with Economic Anthropologist David Graeber
David Graeber currently holds the position of Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths University London. Prior to this he was an associate professor of anthropology at Yale University. He is the author of ‘Debt: The First 5,000 Years’ which is available from Amazon. Interview conducted by Philip Pilkington, a journalist and writer based in Dublin, Ireland. Philip Pilkington: Let’s begin. Most economists claim that money was invented to replace the barter system. David Graeber: Yes there’s a standard story we’re all taught, a ‘once upon a time’ — it’s a fairy tale. It really deserves no other introduction: according to this theory all transactions were by barter. The story goes back at least to Adam Smith and in its own way it’s the founding myth of economics. Think about what they’re saying here – basically: that a bunch of Neolithic farmers in a village somewhere, or Native Americans or whatever, will be engaging in transactions only through the spot trade. How did this happen?