via djw at Lawyers Guns and Money, an event close to my own heart: anthropologists sticking it to economists. In a very entertaining and informative post from David Graeber on the origins of money that you should definitely read in its entirety (spoiler: it doesn’t come from person-to-person barter). The best parts are the ethnographic examples of how barter works in some moneyless societies:
Women from the hosts’ side then come, pick out one of the men, give him a piece of cloth, and then start punching him and pulling off his clothes, finally dragging him off to the surrounding bush to have sex, while he feigns reluctance, whereon the man gives her a small gift of beads or tobacco.
[T]he Gunwinngu manage to take all the most thrilling elements in the Nambikwara encounters—the threat of violence, the opportunity for sexual intrigue—and turn it into an entertaining game (one that, the ethnographer remarks, is considered enormous fun for everyone involved). In such a situation, one would have to assume obtaining the optimal cloth-for-spears ratio is the last thing on most participants’ minds.
But there’s much more to it than that.