Communicator (communicator) wrote,
Communicator
communicator

Debt in the late classical period

I am still adoring Debt by David Graeber. It's so good. I think he makes a better case than I have read elsewhere for the benefits to the state of the mass religions of the late classical period, such as Reformed Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. While Karen Armstrong (for example) talks about how they provided metaphysical answers, Graeber emphasises how they put limits on the exploitation of the poor, particularly the charging of punitive interest and debt peonage. In terms of metaphysics I don't think the new religions are better than classical philosophy and paganism. But in terms of commercial practice, they are more disciplined and integrated as market regulators, because they developed in an urban context where exploitation already existed and was a major problem.

I also think that the anti-sex strand in the religions that developed in the late classical period might well be linked to the sexual exploitation of bonded workers and slaves (ie most people) in the late classical period. The upper classes sort of gave sex a bad name.

Graeber also describes how Empires fell, or came to the brink of collapse, time and time again due to debt running out of control. Over and over again new governments come in and wipe all the records clean, only to have the whole system of slavery and peonage build up again. And the upper classes always forget, and start overstepping the limits they set themselves, and in the end the new rulers become exploitative, and we spiral back into debt again.

Thank goodness we've left all that behind us, eh?
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