David Graeber

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Towards an Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own Dreams

This book is the first comprehensive synthesis of economic, political, and cultural theories of value. David Rolfe Graeber reexamines a century of anthropological thought about value and exchange, in large measure to find a way out of quandaries in current social theory, which have become critical at the present moment of ideological collapse in the face of Neoliberalism.

Rooted in an engaged, dynamic realism, Graeber argues that projects of cultural comparison are in a sense necessarily revolutionary projects: He attempts to synthesize the best insights of Karl Marx and Marcel Mauss, arguing that these figures represent two extreme, but ultimately complementary, possibilities in the shape such a project might take.

Graeber breathes new life into the classic anthropological texts on exchange, value, and economy. He rethinks the cases of Iroquois wampum, Pacific kula exchanges, and the Kwakiutl potlatch within the flow of world historical processes, and recasts value as a model of human meaning-making, which far exceeds rationalist/reductive economist paradigms.

Table of Contents

  1. A Few Words by Way of Introduction
  2. Three Ways of Thinking About Value
  3. Current Directions in Exchange Theory
  4. Value as the Importance of Actions
  5. Action and Reflection, or, Notes Toward a Theory of Wealth and Power
  6. Wampum and Social Creativity Among the Iroquois
  7. Marcel Mauss Revisited
  8. The False Coin of Our Own Dreams, or, the Problem of the Fetish IIIb

Further Reading

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