I was, however, pleasantly surprised to find a thoughtful, analytical article on the work of anarchist anthropologist David Graeber, whose book, “Debt: The First 5,000 Years,” has gotten him noticed on many radar screens, including some on Wall Street.
Graeber, an early muse of Occupy Wall Street, has developed credible, well-thought out theories of how money came into being and the role it’s played in the development of global societies. Graeber, an anti-Niall Ferguson of sorts, analyzes how “filthy lucre” displaced traditional forms of exchange and replaced it with a debt-based system, effectively turning bartering communities into borrowing ones, where repayment obligations became chains of enslavement.
OWS placards reading “End Debt Slavery” show Graeber’s influence. The sentiment is also in evidence at meetings of OWS subgroups, like the one on “alternative banking” which I recently attended. It was held at Columbia University, so there was the expected complement of hyper-smart professors and students. But, interestingly, some defectors from the financial services sector showed up too – even a few who were still making their livings on the Street.