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The Gender of Debt: The Last 50,000 Years

While many requests for reviews written by Two Doctors Media center in fiction, a small yet growing number of review requests fall under the role of non-fiction. Furthermore, most of these works lean more toward lay-person non-fiction, including advice on dating (Date Like a Woman), finance (Financial Freedom), and travel (the currently under-review The Unguidebook). However, a recent work sent to us centered on a more academic-focus connecting studies in anthropology, history, economics, biology, and other relevant social sciences. While I do not propose or profess myself to be an expert in a variety of fields, I was excited to read and review The Gender of Debt.

                The Gender of Debt: The Last 50,000 Years by Mariano Pavanello proposes a new lens by which social scientists can understand the relationship between sex, work, and domination. Pavanello traces the histories of human development, noting that both early and more modern members of the genus Homo exhibit patterns of dietary consumption marked by high levels of vegetation in diets as compared to consumption of meat. Such patterns were similar for modern Homo Sapien societies, including that of the Ju/’hoansi, G/wi, San, and Hazda. However, previous theorizations, musings, and understandings of such societies reflected, as Pavanello describes, clear male bias in the underlying meanings of sex specialization of work and human development across the age. In particular, the author’s analyses come to the conclusion not of “Men the Hunter”, but more (as I’ll coin it here) “Men the Oppressor”. Men as hunters, argues Pavanello, must oversee the gatherers via limiting and controlling those who fill that role within hunter-gatherer societies. Furthermore, such explicit organization of labor highlights the necessity by which gatherers (predominately women) provide the very nutrition that makes up the majority of the caloric intake for male hunters. In essence, female gatherers’ work allows for the conditions in which men have the calories necessary to hunt. Such organization of society engenders debt within the very fabric of social organization of the modern human and pre-modern human experience.

                As is the case with most scientific writing, while accessible Pavanello’s work took a few read-throughs before I could ascertain a few of the key points. This is not to knock the author’s diction; such writing within a specific scientific field can require technical and specific argumentation, word choice, and style. I appreciated the clear layout of major theoretical developments from the various academic fields (primarily anthropology and economics) of which I would not consider myself well-informed aside from a handful of classes from my undergraduate career. I do believe that The Gender of Debt is pretty accessible given the reader has time to take notes and/or has a moderate grasp on the key subjects of anthropology and basic economic theory.

                With that stated, I did find it difficult at times within The Gender of Debt to circle back to the various key theses proposed by Pavanello. While I can possibly attribute this to my own lack of direct engagement within the realm of various key studies in the history of anthropology before reading this book, I would argue that the addition of a few sentences throughout linking clear findings to the thesis statement could make the work more clear.


                To conclude, The Gender of Debt is succinct in many aspects and can be a relatively quick academic read. To his credit, Pavanello does not waste time in laying out arguments and directly questions previous suspect work within the field of anthropology. In this case, the book can be accessible even to a lay audience. Overall, I give high marks for Pavanello and The Gender of Debt.

 Writing: 8.0/10. Strong writing style

Consistency: 8/10. Consistent in arguments presented

Clarity: 7.0/10. Work/Research is clear but could be improved by more linkages to key theses.

Organization: 8.5/10. Well organized.

Overall: 7.87/10. Congrats on your four-star review!

You can find The Gender of Debt: The Last 50,000 Years here

Brian TimmComment