Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Debt in culture

The question of debt runs deeper than we might think. Michael Dutton writes that from the 1940s on, as the Chinese Communists began to capture cities, they conducted blood test. The objective was not medical but political: “the most urgent cases involved tracking down and eliminating those who owed the communists a ‘debt of blood’” (Dutton, 2004, 167.) The separation of populations based on blood would lead to the identification of friends and enemies of the regime. The ‘debt of blood’ became over time, a reverence for the Party: familial, patriarchal reverence was replaced by loyalty to Mao, something we see wonderfully in the song sung at Fengxia’s wedding, where they sing – “nothing compares to the Party’s benevolence/Chairman Mao is dearer than father and mother”. The traditional lineage record was reconfigured, Dutton argues, to narrate a story of liberation facilitated by Mao. It was, he claims, “a story that evoked a debt” which could only be repaid by loyalty and devotion to Mao and the Party (ibid. 171.) - witnessing mao: on zhang yimou’s “to live” - & where do all these highways go now that we are free by anirban on Nov 19, 2011 8:40 AM

David Graeber’s Debt The First Five Thousand Years is a brilliant and powerful book; and even, I would say, a crucial one. Graeber does several things. He shows how the notion of “debt” has been integral to any notion of an “economy.” He traces the history of debt, both as an economic concept and as a metaphor for other forms of social engagement, back to the Mesopotamian civilizations of thousands of years ago. He traces the changes in how debt is conceived, and how economic exchange is organized, in various Eurasian civilizations and societies since then. And he contrasts these relations of economy and debt to those that existed (and still exist to some extent) in non-state societies (the ones that anthropologists tend to study). He takes account of Braudel’s claim that markets have long existed outside of and apart from capitalism — but shows that such markets have only improved life for all, rather than enforcing vicious social stratification through the imposition and collection of debts, when they have been grounded in a cooperative ethos, rather than a harshly competitive one. And he shows that the existence of virtual currency and virtual debt is not just a recent phenomenon, but has deep historical roots — it is hard currency, rather than virtual accounting, that is the more recent (and shallower) innovation. - David Graeber on Debt - The Pinocchio Theory by Steven Shaviro on Nov 19, 2011 10:40 PM

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