In Debt: The First 5,000 Years, author and Occupy Wall Street intellectual founder David Graeber debunks myths that have shaped the general discourse on debt for centuries. The assumptions, myths, and outright falsities permeating our conceptions of debt and money—and why the latter is superior to bartering—blend history and fiction in ways that usually fail to see. Who is constructing these narratives about our preoccupation with money, and why do we insist on believing them? Is there a better alternative that can break the myths of history, shatter their latent presumptions, and build a brighter and equitable future?
In discussing topics ranging from the origins of free market capitalism (Islam) to the virtues of anarchism, Graeber and his conversation partner, Rebecca Solnit, make the case that we do not need to satisfy ourselves with the politico-socioeconomic status quo. To raise the level of discourse on these issues, terms need redefining and social dynamics reconfiguring. Graeber maintains that by thinking of “capitalism as a really bad way of organizing communism,” we can improve cooperation among exchanging parties and the quality of human social relations. For Solnit, the Occupy movement has heralded a radical revolution toward this effort: “It turns out that we’re actually capable of something other than neoliberalism and actually we’re really capable of enjoying ourselves more than we do under neoliberalism. It feels that if neoliberalism is first about privatizing desire and imagination before the economy, then we’re in this process of publicizing it again.”