David Graeber: Corrupted by Math

Posted by admin on Saturday, July 29, 2023

Meaning of David Graeber Money Quote: saying Debt is a perverted form of math representing money multiplied by time and amount owed. David Graeber said:
debt is the perversion of a promise corrupted by math and violence Quote

“What is a debt, anyway? A debt is just the perversion of a promise. It is a promise corrupted by both math and violence” — David Graeber


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This money quote looks at the complex and often problematic nature of debt. Here are some possible interpretations and insights about the quote:

  1. Debt as a perversion of promise: Graeber’s quote suggests that debt is a distortion of the original purpose of promises, which are meant to be acts of good faith and mutual obligation. Instead, debt is often used as a means of exploitation and control, where one party (usually the creditor) has power over the other (the debtor).
  2. Math and violence: Graeber’s reference to “math and violence” highlights the coercive nature of debt. Debt is often calculated using mathematical formulas, but these calculations can be used to justify exploitative and oppressive practices. Additionally, the threat of violence (either physical or economic) is often used to enforce debt obligations.
  3. The corruption of promises: Graeber’s quote suggests that debt corrupts the original promise of mutual obligation and reciprocity. Instead of being a mutual agreement between equals, debt becomes a tool for one party to gain power over the other.
  4. The problem of debt as a social relation: Graeber’s quote highlights the problem of debt as a social relation, rather than just a financial transaction. Debt can create and reinforce power imbalances, social hierarchies, and economic inequalities.
  5. The need for a new understanding of debt: Graeber’s quote suggests that we need a new understanding of debt that goes beyond the current paradigm of debt as a financial obligation. This new understanding should prioritize mutual aid, cooperation, and reciprocity, rather than exploitation and control.

Graeber’s quote challenges the dominant narratives around debt and encourages us to think critically about the social and economic implications of debt. It highlights the need for a more equitable and just understanding of debt, one that prioritizes the well-being of all individuals and communities, rather than just the interests of the powerful.

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