Seminar on Debt: The First 5000 Years – Reply — Crooked Timber

2 Apr

David Graeber resoponds to his critics in a long post at Crooked Timber. Here’s one relatively brief passage, about militarism and the world economy:

I begin the chapter by speaking of myths, symbols and rumors. I emphasize that the way the world economy works, the actual connections between military force, currency regimes, and economic power are impossible to pin down, and that it’s therefore inevitable that paranoid conspiracy theories abound. Yet, speaking as an anthropologist, I cannot help but find these myths and rumors significant—in fact, see them as themselves playing a key role in the system. I begin by emphasizing the murkiness of it all, noting how stories I’d assumed were paranoid myths (there are vast catacombs full of gold under lower Manhattan, that they were the real target of 911), can turn out to be half-true (there are indeed vast catacombs full of gold under lower Manhattan, there’s just no reason to think they were a target of 911). These rumors and stories are all the more important—I thought this was clear—because the US exercises power largely indirectly. The US insists on maintaining the capacity to, and has a history of, using nuclear weapons, launching invasions, fomenting coups, and assassinating rivals, but it obviously does not do so on a regular basis. It just wants to ensure that others know it has the capacity to do any of these things, and that in dealing with enemies no option is ever—as so many US administrations like to put it—“off the table.”

I then proceed to quote Michael Hudson’s argument that the US is an imperial power and that its imposing US treasury bonds to substitute for gold as the reserve currency of central banks operates effectively as a “global tax” or tribute system. This of course is the premise Farrell is objecting to: his title after all is “The World Economy is Not a Tribute System.”

via Seminar on Debt: The First 5000 Years – Reply — Crooked Timber.


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