5 thoughts on “THE RHETORIC OF GRAEBER’S “MYTH OF BARTER” (& the likely early role of commodity-exchange in credit- & State-money development)

  1. From some replies on FB to comments: To someone who could not imagine units-of-account coming from anywhere but a State: Emergent properties in general are crucial to understanding the social development of complexity. “Money” is a perfect example of what in part at least is surely an emergent property of population growth and the resulting demands on political structures, rather than a top down phenomenon. It is odd to me to see an anthropologist arguing for such a top-down view of society (suggesting that units-of-account could only come from rulers or temples or a State) rather than a bottom-up view of emergent properties (such as early units of account) coming from social interaction and population growth.

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    1. “there cannot have been credit-money before a customary unit-of-account”

      Probably there can’t be credit-money, but sure there can be “credit-transactions”.

      For example, today I help you build your house, tomorrow you help me with my harvest so we can get even. There is no credit-money involved. It is just subjective value there.

      That is the kind of credit system that Graeber focus on that part of the book. He is not talking about credit-money.

      There is no double coincidence of wants issue in such a credit system. So there is no need for creating some kind of money that would solve that non-existent issue. That is his main point, if I can remember it right.

      He claims that barter had existed but played a minor role. I would agree that this is debatable. If proven false, his theory would crumble.

      Graeber clearly believes that an unit of account must exist before the actual credit-money itself. I couldn’t understand your criticism on that…

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  2. George, I’ve been meaning to get back to that, just haven’t had time and no copy of the book. It does seem like the Ridgeway (and spread by Toynbee) idea in some ways blends state imposition with metallic standards, on a pre-existing private issue ..is that your take? Sort of a first millennium BC. version of what would happen again a thousand years later?

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