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Also, Debt: The First 5,000 Years covers the religious origins of debt, money, markets, capital, value, values, etc.


My TLDR for this thread: Capitalism is very old. Calvinists and Smith's views towards money, debt, etc. had many precedents. George Gilder's tortured rationalization that God endorses usury is probably unprecedented. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Gilder#Wealth_and_Pover...

Something interesting in Graeber’s history is the connection between medieval Islamic philosophy and modern capitalism. The fact that Adam Smith lifts some examples and arguments straight out of Al Ghazali has potentially significant implications for a history of economic thought.

People like heroic narratives in intellectual history, but very little of what's in Adam Smith is new and unique to Smith. I picked my username semi-jokingly to draw attention to Francois Quesnay, who was a significant predecessor to Smith. But Quesnay isn't even unique -- you can point to any number of competitors. This is well-understood by actual historians of economic thought.

The significance of Smith is that he's where everybody learned these ideas from, not because the ideas are necessarily new with him. "Wealth of Nations" as much of an act of synthesis as it is an act of creation.

Indeed, but a little care is needed: the key Islamic philosophers had a higher profile in educated thought from the Renaissance to the beginning of the Enlightenment, so the simple fact of Smith citing Al-Ghazali is less significant in itself than it might at first appear. Smith was a friend of Hume, who was particularly influenced by Al-Ghazali.

I recommend Michael Hudson on the relationship between debt and capitalism. His view is that the danger to the stability of the economy presented by debt is not a feature of capitalism but is very old, but with capitalism comes a nrw unhealthy relationship with debt, where the interests of the creditor are regarded as sacrosanct.

Two links:

His tribute to David Graeber - https://michael-hudson.com/2020/09/vale-david-graeber/

A summary of his book on debt cancellation in bronze-age societies - https://b-ok.global/book/4983733/12aafa?dsource=recommend

Thank you!

I've been wondering how to continue learning about the ideas Graeber's writings introduced to me.

Graeber's work puts me in the same frame of mind as Robert Wright (Nonzero, Moral Animal) did. Very optimistic.

Hudson's anecdote about Deaton refusing to appear on stage with them is hysterical.

We are enslaved one could say.

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