More on David Graeber
<table><tr><td>From <a href="http://www.reviewatlas.com/news/x221036373/More-on-David-Graeber">Review Atlas</a> - by William Urban
I must beg the indulgence of readers who don’t see the point to following the arguments of the founder of the Occupy movement, but his concepts are quite as important in their own way as that of the Iran mullahs. Anarchism, being essentially non-violent until non-anarchists get involved, is not dangerous until it begins to suck in people who don’t have much experience in the real world.
Anarchism is one of those ideas which are very attractive on a warm summer day. It reminds me of a family picnic, where the food somehow appears and everyone helps in laying it out and cleaning up. People learn to cooperate, even to love one another, and if your mate decides to move in with someone else, well, that too is an aspect of learning to share.
We have entire school systems, mostly private in the US, some public in Europe, which try to inculcate these progressive values into children. For those with a willingness to tolerate a bit of slapstick humor, I recommend the old movie, Auntie Mame, with Rosalind Russell. You’ll never think of Progressive Education the same way again.</td><td><img title="Sharing is pretty fuckn' awesome" src="http://anarchistnews.org/files/pictures/2012/creepyeaster1.jpg"></td></t...
With less effort you can check out the various web stories on the Occupy movement. Or read Graeber himself. He is apparently a compelling speaker, and in his book Debt he manages to insult everyone without using profanity. Our current economic system, he says, is a combination of Stalinist planning and neo-liberalism, not a definition likely to please either the organized left or the corporate right. He wants a horizontal society, not a vertical one; that is, everyone is equal, nobody above, nobody under. People have the right to food and shelter, to move anywhere they want, and essentially to do anything they want. What law and order there is will be administered in town meetings, without the threat of police brutality or jails; and certainly without capital punishment or fines.
This was what he talked the Occupy Wall Street crowd into, to the frustration of representatives of the unions, the homeless and the Democratic party, because each of those groups had specific goals in mind. What David Graeber wanted was a national conversation on goals, an endless town meeting, with some shouting at the 1%, a good deal of recruiting, and ending with “debt imperialism” transformed into an endless summer picnic.
His book shows an amazing breadth of selective scholarly research, with many anecdotes to support his beliefs that we can all learn to get along like the natives of Madagascar and other remote locations. No doubt that he is an interesting person, a man who could entertain and enlighten almost any audience until they get to that ‘uh-huh’ moment when they realize that he means that they should learn to live without most of the modern conveniences we have gotten used to.
No doubt we could. I have gone camping often enough to know that I don’t need hot water on demand, a firm mattress, or even the ability to call for take-out. However, some twenty years ago my wife said “no more camping” and now my knees find getting in and out of a tent painful. Reflecting on this, I suspect that part of the new social compact is that some of us will be asked to make way for the upcoming generation. I haven’t seen an ice flow this summer, but I grasp the principle of putting grandma on one and wishing her well.
Once I didn’t mind sitting around a campfire and singing, but I would not want to do it every evening. The primitive life gets boring, which is why so few people hang around primitive societies once they have a chance to escape. Even small towns that are definitely not primitive find it hard to hang onto young folk.
That is the principal weakness of David Graeber, the Occupy movement, and the communes which were so popular when I was young. Many people like the idea of a utopian community as long as they don’t have to live in one.
It’s like my profession, a college teacher, where a good many very good people like everything about Socrates until he says that teachers should not want to be paid. Tell that to Wisconsin.
A few weeks ago a student wrote that the conservative fist has to stop at her liberal nose. That was a bit awkward for a debate over contraception and abortion, but a friend of mine put it into perspective, saying that the liberal fist has to stop at her conservative pocket.
This is where David Graeber fails to be persuasive. When a reader stops to think (and readers are expected to do this in everything except novels), who is really going to pay for all this, that is the point where one puts him down with Edward Bellamy, Ralph Nader and other well-meaning crackpots whose arguments were very persuasive until people began to ask themselves if that was really a society they wanted to live it.
His view of religion gives us a further insight. He says that there is little difference between Christianity, Judaism and Islam. All began with the money economy, and all will presumably vanish when we return to sharing.
To this end he argues for the immediate erasure of all debts — to just start over, but with the non-productive poor in charge. Then the militarization of capital, the militarization of society and the lies on which the modern economic world is built, would be replaced by love, sharing and the mutual debts that bind a community together.
Some readers will be impressed by his slick arguments that pile mild invectives and insults, graphs and anecdotes, historical references and summarizations of complex ideas into the opaque vision of the world we saw in the Occupy movement — Wall Street, politicians, labor unions, economists have all gotten it wrong, he says. Only David Graeber sees our world for what it is.
His scholarship is the typical magpie collection of the zealot, snipping out points that seem to support his argument, ignoring contradictory evidence or saying that the experts are simply wrong. Graeber may be right, but I think I will continue to watch out for flying pigs. Who knows what they will drop on you?