Can Debt Spark a Revolution?

September 17, 2012
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David Graeber on a boat at Fire Island. Photo David Graeber. CC-BY-SA 2.0.

David Graeber–anthropologist, anarchist, one of the originators of Occupy Wall Street, and son of Lincoln vet Kenneth Graeber–writes in this week’s issue of The Nation:

The idea of the “99 percent” managed to do something that no one has done in the United States since the Great Depression: revive the concept of social class as a political issue. What made this possible was a subtle change in the very nature of class power in this country, which, I have come to realize, has everything to do with debt. As a member of the team that came up with the slogan “We Are the 99 Percent,” I can attest that we weren’t thinking of inequality or even simply class but specifically of class power. It’s now clear that the 1 percent are the creditors: those who are able to turn their wealth into political influence and their political influence back into wealth again. …

Occupy was right to resist the temptation to issue concrete demands. But if I were to frame a demand today, it would be for as broad a cancellation of debt as possible, followed by a mass reduction of working hours—say to a five-hour workday or a guaranteed five-month vacation. If such a suggestion seems outrageous, even inconceivable, it’s just a measure of the degree to which our horizons have shrunk. After all, only fifty years ago many people assumed we would have gotten to such a point by now. It is only by breaking the power of the engines of extraction that we can once again begin to think on a scale and grandeur appropriate to the times.

Read the whole article here.


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