David Graeber: How Debt Enslaves Us

Revolution in Reverse: Debt and Work and the New Colonialism

Directed by Chiara Cavalazzi (2017)

Film Review

Originally released in 2014, this film contains additional footage from 2017 referring to Trump’s election. The purpose of the film is to outline the late David Graeber’s philosophy of debt, with illustrations from Occupy movement protests and other global uprisings. Graeber, a member of International Workers of the World (IWW), was one of the original organizers of the 2011 Occupy Wall Street protest.

The filmmakers intersperse vignettes from seminarsGraeber held with students and activists with footage and interviews from Occupy Wall Street and other protests directed against finance and monopoly capitalism.

In his presentations, Graeber reprises many of the basic issues he covers in his best known book Debt the First 5000 years. The main weakness of the film is that it fails to acknowledge Graeber’s views on the destructive role of debt in money creation (contrary to popular belief 97-98% of the money in circulation is created by private banks when they issue loans*). See his 2014 ar Bank of England Tells the Truth About Money Creation

Other great debt factoids from Graeber include

  • In modern society, debt is the only promise (to repay money created out of thin air by banks and hedge funds) considered to be sacred.
  • In ancient and medieval societies, forgiveness of debt (through jubilee years and/or prohibition of usury) was considered sacred. In the Christian religion, it was incorporated into the ancient Greek version of  the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
  • In modern society, debt is the vehicle used to make violent social relations (ie depriving people of housing, food, health care, etc) seem moral.
  • Modern debt relations are premised on the myth that borrowing constitutes a contract between equal parties. In the vast majority of cases, working people are coerced (usually by low pay) into incurring debt. This is aggravated by a monetary system in which someone (either government or private parties) must go into debt for money to circulate in the economy.
  • Aristotle would consider the vast majority of Americans debt slaves.



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