QTHE WHITE REVIEW — Your latest book is called Debt. One of the arguments you make is that the reason the idea of debt has so much power is because no one has any idea what it actually is. Did you get any closer to understanding what debt is?
ADAVID GRAEBER — Yes. Debt is the perversion of a promise, a promise that has been perverted through mathematics and violence. I’m not saying mathematics is bad, but the combination of mathematics and violence is extremely bad. A debt is a promise to give a certain sum of money, in a certain amount of time, under certain conditions. It is a contract that is ultimately enforceable through the threat of force. The problem is that through a genuinely perverse historical alchemy, we’ve come to see such acts of violence as the very essence of morality.
QTHE WHITE REVIEW — Do you see this reflected in the current economic climate?
— I think that’s the situation that we see around us today, and I’m surprised that people are not more outraged by this direct assault on every fabric of their lives. It’s an assault on the very idea of community, and an assault on the commitments that we make to each other through the medium of government. Why is it that a promise made by a politician to the people that elected them—to provide free education for instance—has a less moral standing than the promise that politician has made to a banker? It seems insane. But it’s simply assumed nowadays.
in The White Review.
Labels: David Graeber, debt, mathematics, promise, violence