posts tagged: gift economy

David Graeber has spent the last decade challenging the line drawn between scholar and activist. While many academics fancy themselves “radicals,” the anthropologist professor has been an active participant in anarchist and anti-authoritarian groups and organizing. Graeber has used his skill-set as an anthropologist to compile ethnographic data—far away from the classroom and campus, to be sure—regarding the contemporary anarchist movement in North America; the results were published in 2009 as Direct Action: An Ethnography. David Graeber is the author of several books, including Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology and, most recently, Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Graeber currently teaches social anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Below, Graeber discusses his latest book, the concept of debt in detail, and how his involvement in the anarchist movement sparked his interest in the history of debt.

Alex Bradshaw: Your latest book, Debt: The First 5000 Years, explores the origins of debt. What were some of the implications for communities and individuals when debt became a significant factor in people’s lives?


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Beyond anti-capitalism & anti-market & anti-currency is anti-ownershipBeyond anti-capitalist, beyond anti-market, beyond anti-currency, I am anti-ownership. Ownership is the metaphysical abstraction that masks a particular arrangement of social relationships mediated by violence. If we wish to bring our dialogue back to dis-alienated and concrete human experience, perhaps we should be discussing access (and the coercion that limits and prevents access) in place of ownership. This isn’t a new idea. It is, however, unfortunate that most of the radical dialogue remains situated within a framework that legitimizes ownership.

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