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?

Comments

can i get the 10 seconds i spent skimming this back pls?

IT is enough for me to say that Graeber is the enemy of the left-communist working-class anarchist and all will be understood.

pro2rat

now i need the 2 seconds i spent reading your comment back kthx

Criticize Graeber however you want, but the real question to ask seems to me: "where is the blood?". Not in any morbid sense, but in the sense that the central antagonisms of Western civilization are not going to disappear; if anything they will be rearticulated in a more violent (however you define this) way.

graeber is an okay homie. keep it up david. maybe go down in a blaze of glory and become some kind of anarchist martyr.

immolate on wall street once things get more wild! it'll be the push we need! (but try not to die, because you're a nice dude and good writer). but if you could just get horribly disfigured it'd make a great photo to make into posters and hold aloft while shouting "the system is guilty!!!!"

This it absolutely absurd and just another example of how this site is doing irreparable harm to the anarchist movement.

You mean that comment? Trust me I don't think that comment is evidence of shit.

"harm" implies something that has value (or health) to harm. I think it remains to be demonstrated that "the anarchist movement" has either value or health anywhere.

Second "irreparable" implies knowledge of the future - that whatever 'harm' this site did to 'the movement' could not be reversed (and that the sum total of impacts of this site were in fact negative and could be both summed and foreseen by you). Such is yet to be proven, which you have not.

There is no movement, it cannot be harmed, this site is irrelevant to any such movement even if it did exist, any harm this irrelevant site did to said non-existent movement would likely be quite reparable, and were such harm even possible to said movement if it could be so harmed by this website it would be a pretty sad and pathetic "movement" that pretty much anything or anyone could do irreparable harm to it, so why NOT this site?

That said, yes this is absurd, but so what? I read @news for the jokes.

Yeah, the spread of ideas, ireperable harm. Jesus, w.t.f. are you on?

"It’s like my profession, a college teacher"

I stopped reading here.

This is comprised chiefly of terrible.

"founder of the Occupy movement"

Graeber is great, but while his ideas were and are important, to call him the founder is to do a diservice to everyone else who did so much. This is gross.

I honestly thought his Debt book was pretty interesting and well researched, but calling him an anarchist is a disservice: he's an academic who writes some interesting things.

I see no point in denying that Graeber is an anarchist.

It's for the anarchy points. Dissing Graeber is like +15. Low hanging fruit.

I like to be a fruitarian about my anarchy points... low hanging fruit sucks I just wait til it falls on the ground.

It's very much like an anarchist to deny that someone's an anarchist

^^ Non-anarchist ^^

who are you to speak

Someone who is very much like an anarchist.

and by the definition of our forefathers, not an anarchist at all

It's very anarchist how you subvert every jk I make with your sober literalism

your satire detector is severely anarchistic

I'm not a fan of Graeber and this article is riddled with nonsense to critique, but a few things stand out in particular:
>people who don’t have much experience in the real world.
This positing of 'the real world' as being outside of some peoples' experience is basically an assertion that the parts of the world they've experienced somehow aren't the world. It's completely metaphysical thinking that revolves around the idea that there exist parts of reality that aren't essentially real, and parts that essentially are - to the exclusion of those non-real parts. The 'real world' described is the world of whatever the author wants to preserve - usually the world of work, or the capitalist economy generally. The line being that the economy is reality itself and that to not internalise its logic is to deny reality.
>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
Who is 'they'?' Spoiler: Only the wealthiest people in the world. i.e. Not the vast majority of the world's population. To make that statement is to deny personhood to most of the world's humans. More importantly, it repeats the constant capitalist framing of our critique in terms of what capitalism produces - hot water on tap or shiny things, a frame that can only really reproduce capitalism since to critique shiny-things-as-such doesn't make a lot of sense when they clearly meet a demand, manufactured or otherwise. Our opposition to capitalism is not primarily based on what it creates but what it destroys - community, freedom, adventure, honesty, doubt, happiness, respect, wildness, non-human animals, difference, individuality etc. etc. etc.
>now my knees find getting in and out of a tent painful
I'm sure that people living the daily pain of work, school and jail care about your knees.
I'd rather camp on my knees than submit in my house.
>Once I didn’t mind sitting around a campfire and singing, but I would not want to do it every evening.
And in any situation worth the name 'anarchy' you wouldn't have to.
Likewise, I wouldn't want to work, buy and obey the law for most of my life.
>I haven’t seen an ice flow this summer, but I grasp the principle of putting grandma on one and wishing her well.
As opposed to her being dominated by the institutions that produce capitalist society for her whole life then dumped in a home, going senile without the ability to end herself. Yeah, those savages lack so much compassion. If only they could live like you.
>The primitive life gets boring, which is why so few people hang around primitive societies once they have a chance to escape.
Yep. It's definitely a choice. The natives get bored, see how cool civilisation is and they jump right on board. That's totally how it went down across the Americans, South-East Asia, the Pacific and Australia. No brutal conquest, dispossession and enslavement. Nope. They just saw how fun the field-work was (Anthropology puns = godlike) and decided to drug themselves into oblivion because they couldn't handle how much fun it was.
Also, >primitive >implying progress is real >when you just criticised progressivism a couple of sentences back
>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.
About the only part of the entire article which has some validity. We have to be the enemies of utopia as such.
>who is really going to pay for all this
Yep, because a non-capitalist world would have money. And people only ever do anything for money. Because the real world is the capitalist economy. And anything else is impossible.
>Wall Street, politicians, labor unions, economists have all gotten it wrong, he says. Only David Graeber sees our world for what it is.
Putting more faith in your understanding of the world than the understandings offered to you by other entities is called thinking critically. To criticise someone for that is basically to assert that they should trust authorities above their own understanding, for no reason at all. It basically boils down to an imperative to believe.
>Graeber may be right, but I think I will continue to watch out for flying pigs. Who knows what they will drop on you?
Writing skills?

this is a great response. too bad it is wasted on this piece-o'-shit blog post.
keep it up!

Good comment, particularly the part about "the real world," Notice how people who refer to such statements as "in the real world", and "the reality is," seldom ever agree on that reality? "It's a fact" is another example.

And nine times out of ten they are columnists who have lived a sheltered existence. Their experience with "the real world" is that one time they got mugged.

why this, why now?

if not now then when

If not you, then who?

if not for no reason, then why?

is there some sort of idea that anarchists have which I've missed where you're supposed to live with the same people your whole life just because it's a commune?

a comrade just gave me links to some real critiques of Graeber's Debt if anyone is interested... instead of this garbage:

The critiques:
http://crookedtimber.org/2012/02/28/seminar-on-david-graebers-debt-admin...

The reply:
http://crookedtimber.org/2012/04/02/seminar-on-debt-the-first-5000-years...

Graeber did a pretty good job of responding to these critiques:

http://crookedtimber.org/2012/04/02/seminar-on-debt-the-first-5000-years...

this might sound strange, but I think we may have posted the same response... looking at the urls :P

heh, i missed that the second link was marked "the reply". whoops.

Made my day.

this is funny. like seeing yourself in a fun-house mirror, not really what you look like and yet amusing nonetheless.

fun house mirror are awesome! I like the ones where we get really tall and wavy.

As a "left communist" oriented towards the working class type -- and apparently one without a sense of humor -- from what I know about David Graeber he has many interesting, insightful and useful things to say. I haven't read the guy in detail, but I intend to read more. Monolithic agreement would be unneccesary and extremely undesirable to boot.

The lame-o author's bit dissing backpacking because his knees hurt too much to do it himself calls to mind Nietzsche's line about how the sick man has no grounds for reproaching life.

Numbnuts screedmeister:

"...Wall Street, politicians, labor unions, economists have all gotten it wrong..."

You got that right.

ANY left communist" oriented towards the working class that was genuinely interested in diversity and debate ( and NOT 'monolithic agreement') would have a nym by now.
You don't so you aren't.
I ,professor rat, am calling you a lying anonymous coward who should be over in the LIBCOM asylum, not here.
Tell those marxist tools I sent you.
Pro2rat

anon said it above, but it bears re-acknowledging: "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." So, this fool knows what the "primitive life" is like... because he grew up in such a culture right? Obviously he does know because, well, primitive life and small town life are basically the same. So, maybe he grew up in a small town and thus knows what primitive life is like, QED.

Anyway, the indigenous swidden horticulturalists and gatherer-hunters were just hanging around, dying of boredom and then Colon comes along and tells them about Disneylnd and shopping malls and multiplex theatres and, of course, they said "fuck this" and got on ships back to europe or started selling land for development. "Why lay around and be bored when you can wear a uniform and sell popcorn at the multiplex? Pretty soon there will be Imax and google glasses! I am so happy now!"

Anyway, that's more or less how it went down. And now David Graber wants to put grandma on an ice floe.

W H A T A F U C K I N G M O R O N!!!!!

Lol. I've been camping enough to know that I could totally live my life like that... Until my knees get sore. Srsly though, whose grandma and what ice floe? Did I miss something?

"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." Another fine example of the professor's logic: attribute to Graeber something he neither says nor intends and then argue against it aka "straw man". With college professors like this, who eeds Glen Beck?

Ba ha ha ha. Maybe he was thinking of Zerzan, the 'genocidist.' And as far as college professors go... Never underestimate their mediocrity or stupidity, the academic system has no limits on these things apparently. I have a friend who has to study St. Augustine and medieval scholarship on 'Natural Law' under a philosophy prof who is a christian fundamentalist. Sure this guy from Alberta, but I'm sure you can find profs like that all over.

Granted that the musty old modernist lineage of western Philosophy is problematic and this prof is probably doing a shitty job, but St. Augustine is right up there with Plato and the lot in terms of status as an ancient philosopher. I understand what you're getting at, Plato gets so much attention precisely because of how he prefigured Christianity, but what you said all by it's self isn't a legit gripe. It's like complaining that an atheist made someone read Neitzche.

Plato didn't prefigure Christianity, Christianity conformed its theology to Plato because it was what was accepted at the time. Well, Plato and Aristotle.

"but what you said all by it's self isn't a legit gripe..."

Alright, and the department offered pretty much nothing else. Almost nothing from the 20th century on, but I don't memorize people syllabus'.

Yeah I figured, I was just ansplaining.

LESS IS MORE when it comes to DG.

"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"

a true summary of Graeber's work. It's 95% what the crowd wants to hear but 80% nonsense when you look at the details. I don't agree with William Urban's anti-anarchist stance, but I do agree with his critique of Graeber's work. It's largely a sham; rarely is any detail correct. In this sense he is closer to Zerzan than he wants to admit.

Which details does he get wrong? I haven't heard any yet.

And now I know what happens when you yawn and puke at the same time. I guess this is some sort of subtle backhanded plug for this Graeber fellow? Isn't he the guy that says sharing is good? Well... that's nice.

lol at this ridiculous attempt at criticism

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