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About David Graeber
As an assistant professor and associate professor of anthropology at Yale from 1998-2007 he specialised in theories of value and social theory. The university's decision not to rehire him when he would otherwise have become eligible for tenure sparked an academic controversy, and a petition with more than 4,500 signatures. He went on to become, from 2007-13, Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London.
His activism includes protests against the 3rd Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001, and the 2002 World Economic Forum in New York City. Graeber was a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement, and is sometimes credited with having coined the slogan, "We are the 99 percent".
Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Photo by David Graeber Edited by czar [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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Does your job make a meaningful contribution to the world? In the spring of 2013, David Graeber asked this question in a playful, provocative essay titled “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs.” It went viral. After one million online views in seventeen different languages, people all over the world are still debating the answer.
There are hordes of people—HR consultants, communication coordinators, telemarketing researchers, corporate lawyers—whose jobs are useless, and, tragically, they know it. These people are caught in bullshit jobs.
Graeber explores one of society’s most vexing and deeply felt concerns, indicting among other villains a particular strain of finance capitalism that betrays ideals shared by thinkers ranging from Keynes to Lincoln. “Clever and charismatic” (The New Yorker), Bullshit Jobs gives individuals, corporations, and societies permission to undergo a shift in values, placing creative and caring work at the center of our culture. This book is for everyone who wants to turn their vocation back into an avocation and “a thought-provoking examination of our working lives” (Financial Times).
Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom: he shows that before there was money, there was debt. For more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.
Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it.
Where does the desire for endless rules, regulations, and bureaucracy come from? How did we come to spend so much of our time filling out forms? And is it really a cipher for state violence?
To answer these questions, the anthropologist David Graeber—one of our most important and provocative thinkers—traces the peculiar and unexpected ways we relate to bureaucracy today, and reveals how it shapes our lives in ways we may not even notice…though he also suggests that there may be something perversely appealing—even romantic—about bureaucracy.
Leaping from the ascendance of right-wing economics to the hidden meanings behind Sherlock Holmes and Batman, The Utopia of Rules is at once a powerful work of social theory in the tradition of Foucault and Marx, and an entertaining reckoning with popular culture that calls to mind Slavoj Zizek at his most accessible.
An essential book for our times, The Utopia of Rules is sure to start a million conversations about the institutions that rule over us—and the better, freer world we should, perhaps, begin to imagine for ourselves.
Democracy has been the American religion since before the Revolution—from New England town halls to the multicultural democracy of Atlantic pirate ships. But can our current political system, one that seems responsive only to the wealthiest among us and leaves most Americans feeling disengaged, voiceless, and disenfranchised, really be called democratic? And if the tools of our democracy are not working to solve the rising crises we face, how can we—average citizens—make change happen?
David Graeber, one of the most influential scholars and activists of his generation, takes readers on a journey through the idea of democracy, provocatively reorienting our understanding of pivotal historical moments, and extracts their lessons for today—from the birth of Athenian democracy and the founding of the United States of America to the global revolutions of the twentieth century and the rise of a new generation of activists. Underlying it all is a bracing argument that in the face of increasingly concentrated wealth and power in this country, a reenergized, reconceived democracy—one based on consensus, equality, and broad participation—can yet provide us with the just, free, and fair society we want.
The Democracy Project tells the story of the resilience of the democratic spirit and the adaptability of the democratic idea. It offers a fresh take on vital history and an impassioned argument that radical democracy is, more than ever, our best hope.
Praise for David Graeber’s Debt
“A sprawling, erudite, provocative work.”—Drake Bennett, Bloomberg Businessweek
“Written in a brash, engaging style, the book is also a philosophical inquiry into the nature of debt—where it came from and how it evolved.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Fresh . . . fascinating . . . thought-provoking [and] exceedingly timely.”—Financial Times
“The book is more readable and entertaining than I can indicate. . . . Graeber is a scholarly researcher, an activist and a public intellectual. His field is the whole history of social and economic transactions.”—Peter Carey, The Observer
“One of the year’s most influential books. Graeber situates the emergence of credit within the rise of class society, the destruction of societies based on ‘webs of mutual commitment’ and the constantly implied threat of physical violence that lies behind all social relations based on money.”—Paul Mason, The Guardian
“Part anthropological history and part provocative political argument, it’s a useful corrective to what passes for contemporary conversation about debt and the economy.”—Jesse Singal, The Boston Globe
“Terrific . . . In the best anthropological tradition, he helps us reset our everyday ideas by exploring history and other civilizations, then boomeranging back to render our own world strange, and more open to change.”—Raj Patel, The Globe and Mail
Stimmen zum Buch
"Eine Einladung zum Umdenken."
"Drastische Ideen, spannend zu lesen!"
"Nach der Lektüre ist man regelrecht berauscht von den originellen wie provokanten Gedanken"
Tobias Wenzel, Deutschlandfunk Kultur
"Das Allerschönste an David Graebers Buch ist, dass einem da einer aus dem Herzen spricht."
Bettina Weber, Sonntagszeitung
El nuevo esclavismo. Pasarse la vida trabajando en algo totalmente innecesario. Un trabajo de mierda.
¿Su trabajo tiene algún sentido para la sociedad? En la primavera de 2013, David Graeber hizo esta pregunta en un ensayo lúdico y provocativo titulado «Sobre el fenómeno de los trabajos de mierda». El artículo se volvió viral. Después de un millón de visitas en línea en diecisiete idiomas diferentes, la gente sigue debatiendo la respuesta.
Hay millones de personas: consultores de recursos humanos, coordinadores de comunicación, investigadores de telemarketing, abogados corporativos…, cuyos trabajos son inútiles, y ellos lo saben. Estas personas están atrapadas en unos trabajos de mierda. Olvide a Piketty o Marx; es Graeber, uno de los antropólogos y activistas más influyentes del momento, quien dice alto y claro que muchas de las tareas que se realizan en una economía de esclavos asalariados son una forma de empleo tan carente de sentido, tan innecesaria o tan perniciosa que ni siquiera el propio trabajador es capaz de justificar su existencia, y pese a ello se siente obligado a fingir que no es así.
La crítica social que persigue el libro es sólida y aguda, especialmente cuando introduce categorías tan refinadas como los «trabajos chapuza», que realizan determinados empleados para, por ejemplo, mantener en funcionamiento máquinas viejas y ahorrarle a la empresa la compra de nueva maquinaria. No deja de tener su lógica, ya que, como dijo Orwell, «una población que está ocupada trabajando, aunque sea en tareas totalmente inútiles, no tiene tiempo para hacer mucho más». De ahí que, como concluye Graeber, lo que tengamos sea una mierda permanente.
Ganador del premio Bread and Roses for Radical Publishing 2012
Todo libro de economía hace la misma aseveración: el dinero se inventó para dar solución a la complejidad creciente de los sistemas de trueque. Esta versión de la historia tiene un grave problema, no hay evidencia alguna que la sustente.
Graeber expone una historia alternativa a la aparición del dinero y los mercados, y analiza cómo la deuda ha pasado de ser una obligación económica a una obligación moral. Desde el inicio de los primeros imperios agrarios, los humanos han usado elaborados sistemas de crédito para vender y comprar bienes, antes incluso de la invención de la moneda. Es hoy, transcurridos 5000 años, cuando por primera vez nos encontramos ante una sociedad dividida entre deudores y acreedores, con instituciones erigidas con la voluntad única de proteger a los prestamistas.
En deuda es una crónica fascinante y pertinente que viene a desmontar ideas encastradas en nuestra conciencia colectiva y superarlas conociendo cuál es la verdadera historia de la economía.
Debt is one of the great subjects of our day, and understanding the way that it not only fuels economic growth, but can also be used as a means of generating profit and exerting control, is central to grasping the way in which our society really works.
David Graeber's contribution to this debate is to apply his anthropologists' training to the understanding of a phenomenon often considered purely from an economic point of view. In this respect, the book can be considered a fine example of the critical thinking skill of problem-solving. Graeber's main aim is to undermine the dominant narrative, which sees debt as the natural – and broadly healthy – outcome of the development of a modern economic system. He marshals evidence that supports alternative possibilities, and suggests that the phenomenon of debt emerged not as a result of the introduction of money, but at precisely the same time.
This in turn allows Graeber to argue against the prevailing notion that economy and state are fundamentally separate entities. Rather, he says, "the two were born together and have always been intertwined" – with debt being a means of enforcing elite and state power. For Graeber, this evaluation of the evidence points to a strong potential solution: there should be more readiness to write off debt, and more public involvement in the debate over debt and its moral implications.