Debt and Punishment: A Critical Review of David Graeber’s Debt

  • Posted on: 12 June 2012
  • By: worker

<table><tr><td>From <a href=" EU</a> - by <a href="">Ingo Stützle</a>
<p><strong>David Graeber&#8217;s book Debt: The First 5,000 Years is missing an analysis of capitalism</strong></p>
<p>(article <a href="">originally published</a> in the May 18th, 2012 issue of the newspaper <a href="">analyse &amp; kritik</a>)</p>
<p>The last few years of crisis politics were a prime example of how on the one hand profits are privatized, while on the other hand losses are socialized. The deep crisis of capitalism has left in its wake a sovereign debt crisis. The answer of the political class has been fiscal consolidation. Finance capital&#8217;s claims on returns are guaranteed and collected by the state. The invisible hand of the market is joined by the visible fist of the state. Struggles over state finances will be central battlefields in the next few years.</p></td><td><img title="I didn't realize commies so identified with their enemies that they saw their struggles as one" src=""></td></...
<p>That is no doubt the reason why the publication of David Graeber&#8217;s book <em>Debt: The First 5,000 Years</em> was greeted with euphoria, even by the bourgeois press. In the <em>Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung</em>, Frank Schirrmacher wrote that Graeber “opens the reader&#8217;s eyes to what&#8217;s going on right now,” and furthermore, “Graeber&#8217;s text is a revelation, since one is no longer forced to react to the system itself within the system of apparent economic rationality.” <em>Der Spiegel</em> opines: “his book on the nature of debt and its economic and moral basis is already regarded as an anti-capitalist standard work of the new social movements which have emerged during the world economic crisis.” This is in reference to the Occupy protests. Even the chief economist of the Deutsche Bank group reviewed Graber&#8217;s book positively in the monthly economic policy journal <em>Wirtschaftsdienst</em> (4/2012) with regard to the question of the future of central banking. Since May 2012, the book has been available in a German edition.</p>
<p><strong>Promises Become Debts</strong></p>
<p>David Graeber, anthropologist and anarchist, is a Professor at Goldsmiths College of the University of London. Until 2007, he taught Ethnology at the ivy league university Yale. For political reasons, his contract was not renewed – Graeber is a political activist. Since the protests against the World Economic Forum in New York City in 2002, he has been an important figure. The role that he has played in the Occupy movement underscores this: not only has he participated, but he has published books on the movement.</p>
<p>Graeber&#8217;s point of departure is the question as to why in capitalism the human appreciation of morality and justice is reduced to an economic quantity and the language of a business transaction – debt. The moral-economic double meaning of the word “debt” in many languages is striking. How have moral obligations and promises between people become an economic debt, and what does that mean for society?</p>
<p>For Graeber, debts constitute a promise – which is to say, a moral obligation – which also existed before capitalism and independent of money. Money makes the mutual promise between people into something impersonal and transferable: debt. Human cooperation, community, and possible forms of renegotiating promises are thus disturbed, existing relations of power and domination become cemented.</p>
<p>In this way, money makes it possible to “turn morality into a matter of impersonal arithmetic” with which promises can be balanced against each other. A settlement by means of debt cancellation, renegotiation, or non-commodified exchange relationships (gift giving or donation), as was still prevalent in pre-capitalist societies, is thus no longer possible.</p>
<p>Graeber thus concentrates upon a classical question of political economy, with which the book also begins: what is money? In the first part, Graeber correctly criticizes the theoretical mainstream of economics. Economics textbooks always begin with barter, an exchange of products without the mediation of money. Economists usually proceed from unhistorical models in which people pursue their “natural dispositions”, among others their drive to barter and exchange.</p>
<p><strong>The State Invents Money</strong></p>
<p>Graeber opposes all this with a historical argument. He proceeds from the assumption that credit and therefore the relationship between creditor and debtor historically precedes money. “The standard account of monetary history is precisely backwards”, namely the sequence from exchange to the discovery of money to the developed credit system. Graeber further hones his argument: money is not only a thing, but a means of making things commensurable. But exactly what is measured or compared? Graeber&#8217;s simple answer is: debt. Money and credit (that is to say, promises to pay) are for him de facto the same.</p>
<p>Graeber reconstructs the genesis of money from promises through various historical phases. From the time of early urban civilizations (Egypt, Mesopotamia, China) around 3000 to 800 B.C., through the Middle Ages (600-1450 A.D.) to the “Age of Great Capitalist Empires” from 1450 (to 1971).</p>
<p>In Graeber&#8217;s account, the state is responsible for the emergence of money, which was introduced in order to pay soldiers. The state thus at the same time also establishes the “currency” in which it collects taxes and generalizes the use of money. Simultaneously, markets arise alongside barracks and mass war production, and in turn money plays an increasingly important role in these markets. According to Graeber, state force, money/credit, and the dominance of markets are tightly interwoven.</p>
<p>Graeber&#8217;s account exhibits a rather vague understanding of capitalism, and in accordance with the anarchist tradition assigns a dominant role to the state. At the same time, this role is subordinated to the economy of obligation. The same is the case for other characteristics of capitalism. Monetary phenomena have existed long before factories and wage labor. However, one searches in vain in Graeber&#8217;s work for an exact determination of what capitalism is. One characteristic he offers is endless growth and the production of “an endlessly expanding volume of material goods”. Also central is the state&#8217;s promotion of an “economy of interest”; the history of capitalism is the history of “the gradual transformation of moral networks by the intrusion of the impersonal – and often vindictive – power of the state.” Against this background, it&#8217;s no wonder that Graeber concludes that markets and money will continue to exist after capitalism.</p>
<p>It&#8217;s not difficult to recognize that Graeber&#8217;s understanding of capitalism is not oriented toward Marx&#8217;s. However, whoever struggles against capitalist relations should nonetheless have an idea of what it is he or she is against. In the future, this must be a concern within the radical left. It is at this point that a critique of Graeber&#8217;s book should be applied.</p>
<p><strong>Relations Without Classes</strong></p>
<p>In principle, Graeber proceeds from the starting point of a socioeconomic relationship that generates interest – the relationship between creditor and debtor; but class relations, the relation between wage labor and capital, and the form of production are not at the center of his focus. Thus, numerous relationships that characterize capitalism become indistinct in Graeber&#8217;s account.</p>
<p>Various actors engage in credit relationships. Debtors can be states, wage laborers, or businesses – for different reasons. The state, because it does not collect enough revenue from taxes or because it nationalizes bank losses; wage laborers, because they don&#8217;t earn enough; businesses, in order to make as much profit as possible. The perspective of credit, however, causes them to all look the same; the reason for the credit relationship that arises appears irrelevant.</p>
<p>This blurring of social relations is also apparent in the categories of money, credit, and capital, which in Graeber&#8217;s conception are indistinguishable from one another. According to Marx, on the other hand, they are forms that mediate quite distinct relations. Money completes a promise to pay, it is therefore itself the “general equivalent.” Money is accepted and used by all, whether wage laborer or capitalist. It mediates commodity exchange. Labor-power is also compensated in the form of money.</p>
<p>If money is supposed to be credit, as Graeber thinks, that raises the question as to what “real” act of monetary payment it supposedly refers. Capital is valorized value. When money is spent as capital, it always presupposes a class relation. Money is spent with the goal of making a profit. At the same time, this relation presupposes the existence of people who, free of both means of production and of personal ties of dependency, have nothing to sell but their labor-power. When capital takes the form of a property claim such as a stock, bond, or another security, Marx refers to it as “fictitious capital”. For Graeber, it&#8217;s again merely credit. Since he ascribes no relevance to these distinctions, all cats are grey to him.</p>
<p><strong>Cancel All Debt</strong></p>
<p>The same is true for his historical observations. Graeber does not recognize what money and credit mean in pre-capitalist societies, what distinguishes them from each other. He works with trans-historical phenomena, without raising questions as to their historical-social form. This is a trait he shares with the economic mainstream that he otherwise criticizes. Graeber writes that systems of credit and accounting are as old as civilization itself. He admits that he finds it difficult to distinguish between gift-giving and credit; but this is only a problem if one discusses these forms of social intercourse independent of their respective dominant forms of production, when one does not clarify exactly what is characteristic of capitalism, what makes it capitalistic and thus what distinguishes it from other social formations.</p>
<p>Historically speaking, a social obligation is not the same thing as credit, and even credit is not the same thing as credit. This observation can be found in Marx&#8217;s work: “There was borrowing and lending in earlier situations as well, and usury is even the oldest of the antediluvian forms of capital. But borrowing and lending no more constitute <em>credit</em> than working constitutes <em>industrial labour</em> or <em>free wage labour</em>.” (<em>Grundrisse</em>, &lt; What does Marx mean by that? Under pre-capitalist relations, in which production was conducted to meet needs, credit was a means of impoverishment. In contrast, under capitalism, credit is a means of augmenting money – of profit maximization. Similarly, industrial labor (or factories in the case of Graeber&#039;s book) cannot be simply identified with capitalist profit logic.</p>
<p>Although it is often asserted that a historical approach is able to show that something existed before capitalism, and that one can learn from history, the differences between capitalist and pre-capitalist societies are often obliterated (and not just in Graeber&#039;s book) if one does not first clarify what is specific about capitalism, in order to use that as the starting point for delving into history – and not the other way around. <sup><a href="#footnote_0_121" id="identifier_0_121" class="footnote-link footnote-identifier-link" title="For that reason, historical research influenced by Marx controverts Graeber&amp;#039;s accounts of the market, credit, and money. On the imposition of the market as an imperative, see Ellen Meiksins Wood&amp;#039;s The Origin of Capitalism. On money, see Jacques LeGoff &amp;#8216;s Your Money or Your Life: Economy and Religion in the Middle Ages. On credit, see Karl Polanyi&amp;#8217;s Primitive, Archaic, and Modern Economies: Essays.">1</a></sup></p>
<p>According to Graeber, every revolution begins with debt that society can no longer repay. “Cancel the debts and redistribute the land.” This sentence by the historian of antiquity Moses Finley is the only revolutionary program, recurring throughout the centuries. And most revolutions were preceded by (excessive) debt. However, before we can think about revolution, we should agree first on what exactly is supposed to be revolutionized. Debt cancellation is indeed a correct demand, but only when the social relations that constantly bring about indebtedness are abolished as well. It seems difficult to reach an agreement with Graeber on exactly what those social relations are.</p>


I hate words. What do you hate?

Graeber published a book on the Occupy movement?

"but class relations, the relation between wage labor and capital, and the form of production are not at the center of his focus."

00000h NO! The analysis isn't Marxist!


ha no joke. this author fitishizes marx's ahistorical understanding of money. marx is about equal to Adam smith in his bourgeois understanding of money.

to the dustbin of history with marxist dogma.

Though only about a halfway thru the book, im inclined to agree with some of this article's points, namely that Graeber does a lousy job actually identifying capitalism (and communism) in useful ways.

However, this critique identifies him as a proponent of the State Credit Theory of money ("In Graeber’s account, the state is responsible for the emergence of money, which was introduced in order to pay soldiers.") when in fact this is just one alternative theory of the origins of money that Graeber reviews, which he pokes holes in along with the others. He never settles on one theory, but rather draws from a massive index of anthropological study to point out both support for and problems with all of the theories (except the traditional mainstream econ one, the idea that barter existed and then led to the creation of money "naturally" - which is complete crap and has no basis anywhere...)

The only hard view that Graeber uniquivocally states in this section of the book is that states and markets are historically and economically interdependent - they came about together, and where you have one, you pretty much always have the other. Its pretty clear that this is NOT the same thing as saying "states are the origin of money." Just a little nuance is called for....

So why is the reviewer assigning this theory to Graeber, when its clear that he doesnt strictly presribe to it? Could it be just one more instance of a marxist hack (the ISO is great at this) assuming that, since they have a simplistic view of the world where capitalism determines everything else, anarchists must be the same but in reverse (the state determines everything else...)

I think it s also telling that when assigning this view to him, they write something like, "[graeber thinks money] was introduced in order to pay soldiers." This is drawn from a few examples out of many many anthropological and historical studies - Graeber does not generalize this to a universal theory of the origins of money, but rather points to it in a few specific times and places. Why is the reviewer so anxious to generalize, to create a universalizing theory when the world is far too complex?

A more appropriate critique of the book, (at least to the extent i can make one being halfway through!), would in my opinion focus on graeber's way of talking about communism. His discussions of "baseline communism", in terms of everyday "sociality" and human behavior like asking directions or bumming a cigarette, is on the one hand interesting, but also completely detooths the idea of communism entirely, making a non specific concept which he argues has nothing to do with the means of production, but is rather just the underlying basis for human sociality in all societies. At the same time he uses it to refer to some societies are entirely non capitalist - so the reader becomes both confused as well as frustrated.

This makes on the one hand communism feel "safe" : if its already everywhere, whats the problem? But on the other hand it also becomes useless - sure, bum a cig on your way to re still fucking having to work. The more interesting question of, "HOW does capitalism so successfully impose itself upon this supposed "baseline communism" all over the world" is never really asked directly, and his concept of capitalism is so vague we re just left wondering.

This way of talking about communism as a concept only actually start to make sense when you take his social democratic and gradualist politics into account - then suddenly one starts to understand why communism is seen not something to be enacted in revolutionary or insurrectionary upheavals where states have been eliminated or undermined, but as a gradual project whereby everybody gets more and more like that one kindergarten class where everyone was told to "share." It starts to become clear that his project is much closer to making this society "nicer" rather than destroying it and making something different.

Adding a bit more, another thing that becomes clear is the mixed bag of his anthropological background. It seems to drive Graeber towards a focus on the microcosmic interactions of people and behaviors. This is refreshing, and certainly all the many economisms that have avoided doing this when read feel like about as tangible and real as a fart blowing in the wind.

But upon reading histories of earlier communist societies, with the discussion so focused on behaviors, I cant help but point out the obvious: that a key thing that makes this communist sociality possible, is a social and collective ownership over the means of production. Its like the giant elephant in the room that graeber doesnt seem to want to aknowledge. This is not a deterministic view: that social ownership was responsible for making those behaviors possible, but also the reverse is true, that the kinds of behavioral interactions (from systems of conflict resolution to kinship patterns etc.) in turn reinforced and made possible a collective ownership. But its nevertheless a key feature of real communism - one cant simply take away this collective ownership and try to impose communist relations nonetheless. A more macrocosmic look, rather than losing the forest for the trees, might help graeber in seeing these things.

I don't know. I like the book but it's pretty clear that Graeber ascribes in part to the Chartalist idea about money. In other words, he does give credence to the idea that the state has enormous power to arbitrarily establish credit-money.I can't really evaluate whether this is true for Sumeria or China, but I think it's flat-out false with regard to capitalism, which functions according to a domination and rationalization of labor (this is where Marx and Marxism is right), and where the state's powers of command with regard to money are limited, hence the sovereign debt crisis of present. But Graeber has nothing to say about this and, in fact, his analysis of capitalism, as you note, is really weak... He also seems to think that you can have an egalitarian market system -- see, for instance, his description of Islamic markets and European village-life.

I agree that he leans more towards this theory of money than others, but he also criticizes it - in any case i think this review overstates in a stereotypically marxist fashion the idea that the "anarchist" position is that the state pre determines the economy, when in fact our position more just that states and markets cannot exist without each other, and therefore generally co evolve for good reason.

I cant speak of his analysis of more or less egalitarian market societies - though it makes sense to me that from an anthropological perspective (ideally, one driven by real observations of real societies, rather than just a pre developed, universalizing social theory seeking evidence in the "real" world) one would find some market societies that are MORE egalitarian than others, depending on not just what kind of markets they are but also all the other political and social aspects of that society which may or may not temper the kind of class structures that markets create.

Of course, this is different than saying out right that its possible to have a truly egalitarian market system - if graeber is arguing this in full, then he would have turned into some kind of market "anarchist" that would be a departure from the politics ive known him (in text and in person) to have. I have all sorts of disagreements with him probably, from his stubborn belief in direct "democracy" to his social democratic and gradualist leanings - but ive never known him to endorse markets or capitalism explicitly...

Nah, I think he's now a crypto-Proudhonian. That is -- pro-credit, and pro-market, with a sense that capitalism is the ruling class domination of these things. See pages 326-329:

"The reason that this upends our assumptions is that we're used to blaming the rise of capitalism on something called "the market"-- the breakup of th older systems of mutual aid and solidarity, and the creation of a world of cold calculation, where everything had its price. Really, English villagers appear to have seen no contradiction between the two. On the one hand, they believed strongly in the collective stewardship of fields,s treams, and forests, and the need to help neighbors in difficulty. On the other hand, markets were seen as a kind of attenuated version of the same principle, since they were entirely founded on trust."

There are a ton of quotes like this in the Debt book, which I don't have the time to type out.

Yes but that quote is just him summarizing Fernand Braudel. Graeber argues that in the absence of state power markets start to turn into something other than markets, in fact, something more like mutual aid. This anyway is consistent with his positions when, say, debating with anarcho-capitalists: he says that even if you tried to maintain markets in a free society, they would almost instantly stop looking like anything anarcho-capitalists assume markets would be like, to the point where before any significant time had passed you couldn't really call them "markets" in any meaningful sense at all. He's also argued that while money in the very broadest sense might not completely disappear in a free society (he says we can't really be sure), "money is just a rationing chip" and obviously a free society wouldn't want to have as little rationing as possible.

I meant "would want to have as little rationing as possible"

yes, exactly, and it's the Braudelian streak in Graeber to which I object. I think all of this is absolute bullshit, in fact.

it's far more likely that those markets and exchange relations would become, once again, capitalist, as the inherent inequalities among producers became more and more pronounced...the gradualist story of a the withering away of the market is obvious bullshit. full and immediate communism! no compulsory work, no exchange, no money, and no administrative centralization!

Ah that's a basic difference. Your assumption seems to be there's some kind of basic genetic flaw in humans that means the moment they're in front of something that even looks like a commodity, capitalism will emerge. If so anarchism is in big trouble because you can't stop everyone on earth from doing anything at all that looks like commodity exchange. I mean think about it practically. Are we really going to get everyone in Tunisia to stop going to the bazaar? In many societies it's peoples' main form of sociability and entertainment. How will this be absolutely eradicated through full and immediate communism? Burn down the bazaars and kill everyone who comes to them?

No, it's quite the contrary. I don't think there's a basic genetic flaw in humans. I think there's a basic genetic flaw in exchange and in money relations, particularly when other vestiges of capitalism are likely to survive or be there in residual form. the error is in these social forms not in humans. indeed, i would suggest that it's you who make an idealist and humanist error by thinking that market forms will gradually turn into something egalitarian. i see zero evidence of this historically.

i wouldn't have any problem with exchange if it's for non-essential items. a kind of ritual exchange, the way kids exchange trading cards or whatever, as a form of sociality, is fine, as long as people don't depend on money and the market for the things they need to survive. once that happens, i think that capitalist relations (or something like them) are around the corner.

but yes, i'm ok with burning stuff down...

Well if your counter point is use-value then you're in even bigger trouble, I tend to agree with Dupont that the end of these relationships will likely come about with a relaxing of historical habitual constraints represented by market logic, autonomous spaces will have to open up within modern logic itself.

The thing about the market is that it is the current form of how human excess expresses itself and the reason why the 20th century was such a failure was because you had those parts of the world where planners tried to prescribe what was good for humanity, I see the same problems coming from a bottom up approach as well. Ultimately you just have to let community find itself regardless of what super/base structure is standing.

you economists are such homos

Above on use/exchange was me

"HOW does capitalism so successfully impose itself upon this supposed "baseline communism" all over the world" is never really asked directly, and his concept of capitalism is so vague we re just left wondering. " should actually read graeber's book. He says that it successfully imposes itself once it becomes quantified in the currency established by the state.

i m aware of this - but thats not what im getting at. i ddont mean generally how down capitalism come about in his view, but rather why is this baseline communism" concept supposed to be compelling or meaningful in any way, if it can so easily coexist with the real actual capitalism we live other words, doesnt this render this "communism" basically meaningless?

Another way to put it: if the underlying foundation of all human sociality is the baseline communism, which is an assertion im inclined to agree with, how is it that basic sociality is rendered so completely incapable of stopping capitalism?

Sorry if i wasnt clear....

I personally agree with Graeber's Debt more than what is written in Das Kapital and other marxist texts. Key theoretical tenets of marxism seem to be founded on the hollow ground of the barter myth that Graeber destroys.

I think marx's [pseudo] understanding of how money arose is actually what lead marxism as a whole into being an ecnomically-reductionist theory of society. There is no accounting for political power creating economic relations in marx's analysis of capitalism. And this is his primary failure that lead him to theorize in favor of state transition. Capitalism is not only some market phenomena as marxists largely reduce it to. Socialists/communists need to get beyond this.

Actually, Marx's text is not founded on the barter myth at all. If you read Das Kapital it's pretty clear that Marx sees it as a myth as well...Capital is not a theory of origin of money in exchange but of the origin of capital in exploitation. The stuff on "simple commodity production" in the beginnin of Capital (which Graeber actually seems to believe is a stage that existed, in his chapter on European village) is meant to be debunked as a theory of the origin of value, but people often read it as an actual stage. Finally, Marx does not suggest that capitalism is a market phenomena. The entirety of his work is a critique of this idea -- in Smith, in Ricardo. His view is that it is a phenomenon which arises from the domination of labor, from transformed class relations. Not market relations. If some Marxists believe otherwise, that's just because they're wrong, and more influenced by bourgeois economics than they think.

"There is no accounting for political power creating economic relations in Marx's analysis of capitalism."

Here is where you admit you haven't read Marx, or much of it. The entire last two sections of Capital are about this -- see the material on primitive accumulation, and bloody legislation. His whole point is to debunk the idea that market relations arose naturally or spontaneously, and to point out that they depended upon violent state power, and class power -- the enclosures, the poor laws, etc. I agree that the Marxist theory of the state is underdeveloped, but to say that there is "no accounting" for this is just ignorant.

graeber’s focus on debt is too far ‘downstream’ of the fundamental model of socio-economic dynamics and so is the focus on capitalism and communism since they are all ‘doer-deed’ models.

a primary distinguishing characteristic of Western capitalist society is that it is ‘dualist’; i.e. it decouples distribution and collection which, in nature, are in conjugate relation; i.e. the water cycle is one dynamic which has a distribution aspect, distribution by way of precipitation, and a ‘collection’ aspect, collection by way of river systems and catchment basins. is the archetype dynamic in nature and it shows up in relativity and quantum physics. it is captured in mach’s principle [the asserting inhabitants and the accommodating habitat are in conjugate relation].

as anthropologists [other than graeber] have noted, those who took control of water reservoirs became elite. those closest to the reservoir could control the supply and distribution while those farther away were at the mercy of those close to the centre.

ultimately, in nature, distribution and collection will balance out because of conservation of mass and energy, but those who take control of a large reservoir look like the local authors of ‘distribution’; i.e. they look like the 'God-like source', the 'power of production'.

the thing to look at here is the ‘decoupling’ which supports the ‘dualist view’; i.e. the view that ‘distribution’ and ‘collection’ are two separate processes. after all, those who control the reservoirs control the distributions from them [short-circuiting the natural distribution-collection relation], which makes it appear as if the distribution ‘starts with them’, rather than being a circular process wherein distribution and collection are not independent things but conjugate aspects of one circular process.

in a naturally evolving community, distribution and collection, or ‘give-and-take’ are conjugate aspects of one circular social dynamic. the community in this case is ‘non-dualist’ since it does not use ‘reservoirs’ to decouple ‘distribution’ and ‘collection’; e.g. a century and a half ago, chief maquinna of the Nootkas spoke about the non-dualist aboriginal approach to finance, where distribution and collection were managed by way of spatial-relations rather than by time-based borrowing and lending dynamics;

“Once I was in Victoria, and I saw a very large house; they told me it was a bank and that the white men place their money there to take care of, and that by-and-by they got it back, with interest. We are Indians and have no such bank; but when we have plenty of money or blankets, we give them away to other chiefs and people, and by-and-by they return them, with interest, and our hearts feel good. Our potlatch is our bank.” - ‘First People First Voices’

management/control over the ‘reservoirs’ made people dependent on the reservoir owners. in free-flowing water distribution systems, a ‘controlling elite’ did not develop since the waterflow passed through all the communities and in a naturally flowing system [‘naturally managed water system'], distribution and collection are not ‘split apart’ in the global process, they just look split apart [their independence is 'schaumkommen']. the ‘reservoir’ appears to stay the same size even though huge water distributions are continually collecting in it and huge distributions are discharging from it. the ‘reservoir’ is a river too; it’s just that the ‘coming’ and ‘going’ of water requires a more careful inquiry.

the ‘means of production’ or ‘power of production’ is something every natural community has. but one would be better to follow nietzsche on this and speak instead of the ‘will to production’, since it is a circular give/take, distribution/collection dynamic.

‘playing around with reservoirs’, which is what ‘debt’ is all about, gives the impression of decoupling ‘distribution’ and ‘collection’ so that ‘distribution’ now appears to be a ‘thing-in-itself’; i.e. the ‘power of production’ appears to be a ‘thing-in-itself’. this is the ‘doer-deed’ model all over again.

sure, it APPEARS that the ‘power of production’ now resides with those who control the reservoirs, but they are just jerking around in the imaginary gap between distribution and collection [and playing russian roulette with real process].

the problem here is not deriving from ‘debt mis-management’, it is deriving from ‘confusing dualism, the splitting apart of distribution and collection, for reality’, a confusion that reservoir manipulation has brought about and continues to encourage.

emile posting anon, now i have to read a couple of your sentences before I skip over the rest, thanks. yawn.

Emile should stick with naming their comments. They don't say anything significant enough to read that much drivel. They condescend the reader and then get defensive when people say anything about it. It isn't like I want to ignore emile's comments. But the time it takes to go over them and ponder their significance and realize they aren't significant enough for the word count is just too much too often.

But I guess I'm just too doer-deed-thinking and should be more outside-in or whatever the fuck it is that emile says, like that actually means something. If someone can explain emile's terminology without the high word count, that would be helpful.


obliviously yew dint it ether.

‘scuse me. didn’t notice that i was not logged in when i wrote that comment. apologies to anyone who took the time to read it who would have avoided doing so if the ‘emile’ tag had been on it.

as for judging significance of the content on a bang-for-the-word-buck basis, this is a strategic choice for many people; for example, one can save a lot of words in dropping from non-dualism to dualism; e.g;

1. the forest and arable land were transformed into a housing development by turning the trees into lumber and covering arable land with lumber-based structures. (25 wct)

this non-dualist statement, wherein production and consumption are in conjugate relation [not two things but one], is rather wordy but become less wordy, in its dualist formulation where production and consumption are notionally split into two separate dynamics, allowing us to speak of production as a process in-its-own-right;

1a. housing production is up by ten percent. (7 wct)

of course, the most popular word savings are those achieved by corporations in their dualist rhetoric;

2a. corporate production is up by twenty percent. (7 wct)

this avoids quite a few words; i.e.;

2. the labours of many people along with raw materials drawn from our finite common reservoir were transformed into new products. a legally defined imaginary entity called the corporation claims to be the author of the production. (37 wct).

the 'word savings' that associate with dualism are commonplace, having become the ‘norm’ rather than the exception. the 'only' understanding that is lost in notionally splitting the ‘inhabitant dynamic’ apart from the ‘habitat dynamic’ is the conjugate effect of the ‘inhabitant dynamic’ [aka ‘production dynamic’ or ‘doing of deeds’] on the dynamics of the habitat they are included in.

the economizing on words that makes the conjugate effect of ‘production’, on dynamics of the habitat ‘disappear’, suits the sovereigntist, capitalist establishment ‘just fine’; i.e. it notionally isolates the assertive dynamics of governments and corporations as embodied in the global economy, from their conjugate relation with the dynamics of the habitat/community they transpire within. meanwhile, mach’s principle claims that “the dynamics of the inhabitants [e.g. governments, corporations] are conditioning the dynamics of the habitat [living space conditions] at the same time as the dynamics of the habitat are conditioning the dynamics of the inhabitants [workers’ lives].

the ‘word-economy’ of dualism ‘launders out’, in rhetoric, the non-dualist ‘physical reality’ wherein the dynamics of inhabitant and habitat are like the dynamics of flag and wind; inherently and instantaneously conjugate.

Hey emile we are getting close to publishing our first issue of a new newsletter and we really want you to have an ongoing column. How can I get in touch with you?

you seem unaware of my marxist view on this; i.e. “i refuse to become a member of any club that would accept me as a member.” – g. marx

I lol'd
But seriously, we don't want you in our club. We just want you to write a column. We love your writing and want to bring it to a wider audience.

thanks for the supportive feedback.

my problem is that my writing seems often to ‘interest people’ but interest [positive or negative] is typically as far as it goes, because to take away ‘relational understanding’ [mode of understanding rather than a neat result of it] requires the listener to suspend a whole lot of ‘beliefs’ that are very often foundational to one’s identity; e.g. ‘morality’, ‘independence’, growth, purpose, darwinism etc. all of the ‘relationists’ [mach, nietzsche, poincaré, bohm, schroedinger] seem to have hit this wall in trying to share the relational worldview. the evidence is that in spite of their best efforts and those of others who are on the same page with them, there has been little growth in ‘the relationist world view’. one reason is that it is unacceptable in academia so even the ‘rebels’ in academia couldn’t overtly share it if they wanted to. if academia, the Church of Aristotelian Doctrines, ever ‘got the message’, it would subordinate itself to programs of philosophical apprenticeship with native elders, and redefine its PhDs in the sense of boyscout badges.

so, my interest is in seeing ‘pick-up’ [‘wake-up’] on ‘relational understanding’ since my view is that the mess we are in is coming from our habitual, dualist/Aristotelian manner in which we, who have been indoctrinated in the globally dominant sovereigntist-capitalist culture, interpret and engage with the world dynamic.

if you are interested, here’s a proposal for you. if, in your newsletter, you pick a current ‘topic of interest’ and invite an alternative ‘relational view’ of it [any dynamic at all can be considered in a relational sense] that you can publish in the next newsletter, i will respond. if you get responses from others that you like better, you can publish those. in this way, ‘audience participation’ may improve the poor ‘sharing record’ of relational understanding.

our cultural approach to understanding is to divide everything into opposites and to describe them ‘in time’. thus david graeber writes about ‘debt’ and everyone thinks about debt in terms of the opposites of ‘borrower’ and ‘lender’ and a time-based contract/obligation. this is like newtonian two-body physics all over again [mathematics does not easily support three+ body (relational) dynamics]. i am no anthropologist but i know for sure that other cultures, such as the amerindian culture, see excess and deficiency in a spatial-relational sense, not in a two-body and time-transactional sense, as the comment from Maquinna clearly shows. the Nootkas derive their mode of understanding from nature’s dynamics which are spatial-relational. in the Potlatch culture, if you are ‘in need’ someone ‘over there’ who has surplus will share it with you. you don’t have to ‘pay the same person back at a later time’, the ethic is to share your surplus with someone in need ‘over there’. the amerindian view is of a [spatial-relational] web-of-life in which we are each unique, situationally-included [spatial-relationally-included] strands. so graeber speaks of ‘debt’ in a very culturally constrained way, as a kind of ‘moral obligation to someone’ that must be resolved ‘in time’; i.e. a commitment that demands ‘closure’ [this famous word 'closure' in our Western tit-for-tat culture, crops up everywhere; e.g. in our institutionalized vengeance system of justice]. but if you leave your change in the coke machine, others will too, and there is no ‘closure’, the good-will continues on 'forever'. should we prefer tit-for-tat time transactions, 'moral obligation' and 'closure' to free-sharing?

almost everything that comes out of academia renders dynamics in terms of two-bodies interacting 'in time', not because of Newton but going back to Parmenides and Aristotle. the Heraclitean way of understanding dynamics, in general, is ‘relational’ and acknowledges that 'opposites' are not real but are only 'appearances', but it was eclipsed by the absolute space and absolute time and absolute opposites-based ideas of Parmenides and Aristotle. the Heraclitean understanding prevails in the amerindian tradition, while our culture has embraced the mode of understanding in terms of the dynamics of opposites that transpire over time [e.g. darwinism’s view that inhabitants are in a struggle with the habitat, medicine’s view of the body ‘fighting off microbes’, and graeber’s view of debt as a moral contract between two opposite parties, and the general viewing of dynamics in terms of ‘what things-in-themselves-do’ ‘over time’, a view which totally ‘eclipses’ the relationist view of dynamics in terms of spatial-relational transformation]. ‘debt’ the way graeber describes it and the way we use it is like sovereigntism, it is western psychological bullshit to begin with. so what if it has infected the world as sovereigntism also has. an understanding of debt in graeber's and the culture's narrow terms of binary opposites transacting in time is not ‘grounded’ in physical reality.

it’s amazing how readily we buy into the acculturated definitions. ‘organization’ is another one. we conceive of it being based on the opposites of leader and follower and having dynamics ‘in time’ whereas 'organization in nature' is non-dualist/circular [spatial-relational] as where ‘distribution’ and ‘collection’ are in conjugate relation in the water cycle.

once ‘organization’ is defined in a ‘leader-follower’ sense, the term ‘disturbance’ is then defined as a ‘disruption to organization’ and when people spontaneously ‘organize’ in the ‘occupy’ movement, they are accused of the crime of ‘public disturbance’. this is like the crime of ‘defaulting on one’s debts’. it takes its meaning from bullshit definitions.

anyhow, my point is that any issue can be interpreted relationally and you can be sure that the popular discussion of issues in our culture will be in terms ‘what things do over time’, so that the relational interpretation will always bring the same ‘material’ out in a different way. if your newsletter wants to invite relational views on topical issues, i will respond, and hopefully others as well, and by publishing one or more of the ‘relational offerings’, you will be able to bring ‘these same [relational] sort of understandings’ as in emile's writing, “to a wider audience”.

Never change, emile.

Anticipating the content and not reading it, post-nihilist communists are bored by economic theories and debates based on the objectivist materialistic infinite fund which exists in the capitalist society. Even the word exchange, or barter is tainted, this callous value has immured these societies since chips or seashells were fetished, and the minds of its victims, being made to desire. A sad self-perpetuating cycle of wars and revolution, all narratives of the Western flaw, how social relationships are fragmented by the power of materialistic desire, rather than voiding the need for food by creating nomadic agriculture.

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