Edited to add: Actually, Wikipedia has a pretty good linked list of his articles, and a quick title check with mine seems to suggest that it is comprehensive.
Further edited to add: A short (180-page) book by Graeber, The Utopia of Rules, is a lovely example of his thoughtful writing style. It's nicely summed up in Wikipedia .
It is available to buy from many good book stores, and it is also at Amazon. However, you can download it as a .pdf here .
@dang - please delete this comment if it breaks any HN rules.
I've only recently started digging into his work and I can only imagine how it'll impact my worldview for years to come.
For those unfamiliar with his work, here are some essays I recommend as a start:
1. On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs: https://www.strike.coop/bullshit-jobs/
2. What's the Point If We Can't Have Fun? https://thebaffler.com/salvos/whats-the-point-if-we-cant-hav....
3. How to change the course of human history (at least, the part that’s already happened) https://www.eurozine.com/change-course-human-history/
In many ways, the pieces I've read of Graber's have gone over my head (someone down-thread mentioned "Debt" taking them months to read because every two pages was original enough to ponder for days at a time).
But what stands out to me was how much fun I always have reading him. Often, I'm laughing - and I've read other anthropologists and can say that, for instance, Clifford Geertz wasn't exactly humorous.
I'm not trying to be trite here. I believe that, whatever your beliefs, your character and personality can be revealed in your writing in a way that stands alone, apart from whatever argument you might be making. I never met Graeber, but from his writing, he always seemed like a person I'd enjoy the hell out of having dinner with. Salute to a real one!
His Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology is also one I always wished to read a follow up on.
Here’s one by Noah Smith: http://noahpinionblog.blogspot.com/2014/11/book-review-debt-...
He basically admits to having trouble understanding it owing to it being disorganized (a point he repeats frequently). But then he complains about people who criticize him for not making good faith attempts understanding what they're saying. Then he spends way too much of it trying to criticize anyone who would tell him it's bad and even spends an entire paragraph talking about how he suspects Graeber is a public intellectual who bristles at criticism before going on to pre-emptively bristle at any potential criticism of his review.
Not his best work, to be sure.
[EDIT: There are also some good counterpoints to Noah Smith's critique in the comments, for example https://noahpinionblog.blogspot.com/2014/11/book-review-debt...]
"While markets are one thing, capitalism is quite another, though, as it's marked by the power imbalances of wage labor, something not found in all previous incidences of commerce..."
Upvote for dissembling markets from capitalism.
But I really wish the peanut gallery would also separate corporatism from capitalism.
There's nothing about capitalism (dogma, theory, practice) which prohibits the surplus (profit) from being shared with labor.
... excepting of course for that particularly comprehensive work on Capitalism that very clearly argues that 'surplus' value can only be created from the exploitation of labor and any group that accumulates that surplus is effectively stealing it from labor.
edit: only on HN would a comment acknowledging the existence of Marx earn you downvotes on a post about David Graeber
I think we've mostly learned that Marx was right.
You seem to be thinking of Marx from the sort of popular fiction of someone that protests capitalism as some great injustice. Marx's logic, at least in Capital, isn't that Capitalism is a moral evil, or that Capitalists are bad people (in fact he argues pretty clearly that the moral character of individual capitalists is irrelevant).
Marx's central point is that Capitalism is a system filled with internal contradictions that will continually manifest themselves as crises. These crises will continue until the system finally becomes unstable an collapse. Marx's vision of course was that it would collapse into socialism, but his utopia solutions can be viewed quite independently from his theory of capital.
Marx predicted a fairly large portion of our world today: the increasing globalization of capitalism, growing interdependence of labor and capitalist classes, increasing fragility of the labor class, the development of the credit system and financial system to temporarily resolve some of these contradictions.
If there is a good critique of Marx it is that he failed to predict the ecological and environmental damage that capitalism would bring. He failed to fully understand the way that these contradiction work with resource use.
But I'm not sure we can talk about a central point in Capital. Capital is a description of a system based on private commodity production, for exchange. It has many points, and one of them is the one you mention about the inevitable replacement of the capitalist mode of production with communism, and it comes at the end of Vol 1. Funnily enough, I believe it's the only point he asserts without arguments, and it's, as we know, thoroughly wrong.
If I had to highlight one important point from Capital, I think Marx's explanation for why the mass poverty of workers is an inescapable necessity for the capitalist mode of production would get my vote (chapters 4, 5, 6 of volume 1). It's an argument he was the first to develop, and that many people still refuse to acknowledge.
You are very right to point out that Capital does indeed predict many phenomena that we see today. In general, Capital holds up as a description of how the capitalist mode of production works.
I think if contemporary dialogue about Marx focused more on Capital and less on The Communist Manifesto we'd have less confusion about what Marx was trying to say.
I think it's perfectly okay to agree with his concept of dialectical materialism and also disagree with the statist solution put forth in the manifesto.
We also understand the business cycle in a way that Marx didn't. It's not really his fault -- Capital is 150 years old -- but we have much better explanations of the business cycle, thanks to John Maynard Keynes. We now know that money and banking is central to the cycle, and that the government can act to ameliorate the cycle. The financial crisis of 2008 essentially recreated the starting conditions of the Great Depression, and even though the government response was far from optimal (there was lots of talk of "expansionary austerity"), we had nowhere near the disaster of the Great Depression.
We also understand economic growth better than Marx did. In Marx' day, the idea was that capitalists would steal from the workers to build factories, and then once this process was over the final crisis would hit. He did not know the endless march of technological advance that would follow. (To be fair, how could he? No one can see the future.) We know from Robert Solow's research on growth theory that most of the rise in output is not from building factories, but from technological advance.
Marx also didn't really understand the role of finance in the economy. Since capital can only come from worker exploitation, there's no role for savings or investment. You can see how the communist economies struggled with this. The only idea they had for funding development was expropriation, so they would just have the state do the expropriating. (This is the source of the criticism of the Soviet Union and Maoist China for being "state capitalist"). There's no role for people saving for the future. TIAA/CREF and the Norwegian wealth fund cannot exist. There's no role for investors trying to diversify risk. There's no role for entrepreneurs trying to raise money to fund future technological advance. That is why when China switched to capitalist development, it averaged 6% economic growth for like 50 years. Strikingly, they still teach Marx in schools in China, but they didn't become the world power they are today until they started ignoring him.
This is a bizarre claim. He absolutely predicted this, it was a huge focus of most of his work and is central the 'tendency for the rate of profit to fall'. It is also one of the essential parts of how surplus value is extracted. The common notion is simply that factory workers get paid less than the value of their labor but this is only a part of how surplus value is taken. Capitalist also do this by raising the quality of life but at a slightly slower rate the efficiencies that they benefit from in the production process, allowing them the extract surplus value through both consumption and production.
So much of Capital and Grundrisse is about the relationship between technology and capital its hard to imagine that you have even passing understanding of Marx and can make a comment like that.
> Marx also didn't really understand the role of finance in the economy.
Another very strange claim since a good amount of Capital vol. 3 deals with "Fictitious capital" and Marx is quite aware of the increasing role that finance will play in the resolution of periodic crises.
> So the central prediction of Marx has failed to come to pass.
With the increasing instability of our global financial system I think a few years time you'll revisit some of the claims of yours with a bit more skepticism
He didn't predict it. He predicted capital accumulation. The tight relation between technology and capital in Capital is exactly the mistake he's making. You can't explain the increase in output in terms of capital. This is the fundamental insight of Solow's research. With technological advance, the output of the economy becomes larger for the same inputs.
Marx had heard of finance, since it existed by the time he was writing, but he didn't understand it. Otherwise he would have understood that profits do not exist solely because of exploitation. People have time preferences, and risk preferences. People would rather get paid today, and would rather avoid risk. Thus, profits are required to fund projects with long-dated payoffs, or are risky. Take away those profits, and you see those projects go largely unfunded. That's why the China that took Marx' advice was one of the poorest in the world, and the China that ignored his advice makes up 15% of world output.
The instability of the global financial system is overrated. Look how easily the Fed stepped in this summer and stabilized financial markets.
My main concern has always been fairness. I might be a Rawlsian. Not inequity or egalitarianism stuff, like most lefties, but fairness.
I blame this on being raised in a liberal Christian church and the Beatitudes. And sibling rivalry. Because I need things to be very simple, I somehow landed on:
- Help people help themselves.
- Help those who cannot help themselves.
Note that I don't focus on merit, worthiness, guilt, blame, punishment, and so forth. While all very important, those are someone else's problems. In my upbringing, it was god's job to pass judgement, not mine. So I'm content to mitigate cheating and freeloading.
One derivation of my "help each other" ruleset is we have a shared responsibility.
Not the notion of personal responsibility from the conservatives. And not the notion of equal rights from the liberals. I have no quarrel with either of those beliefs; they're both good and true. I just think "shared responsibility" resolves the paradox, is more fundamental.
I see shared responsibility as the most effective way to achieve my half-baked notions of libertarian and anarchist styled maximal personal freedom. We can't just cut people loose. We're all stuck on this rock together. So we have to figure out how to bring the least of us (Beatitudes FTW) on the journey. (Goldblatt's theory of constraints also applies here.)
I have a geek's game theoretic worldview of stuff like capitalism, democracy, competition, markets, taxes, etc. They're just clever algorithms for tackling optimization problems. Slice and dice and recombine them as needed to best attain desired social and civil outcomes.
I was learning and applying (professionally) optimization and voting systems around the same time (1990s). Many eurekas. Bee colony optimization (for example) and group decision making (using approval voting, for example) are both part of a whole.
So that's about it. My views on politics, economy, collective action all come from my half-baked notions of fairness and figuring out how to best help each other. Confusingly, my advice for action changes as circumstances change, because the problem space is always changing.
Anarchists tend to agree with Marx’ analysis of capitalism.
Why would any employer pay anything more than the absolute minimum for wages? Or pay any taxes? Or properly dispose wastes? Or...?
What about capitalism states that maximizing profit must supersede all other goals?
From Wikipedia: "Corporatism is a political ideology which advocates the organization of society by corporate groups, such as agricultural, labour, military, scientific, or guild associations on the basis of their common interests." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporatism
Because yes, that's pretty far from capitalism, but it seems to be even further from what we have today.
Stuff like being anti-democratic, anti-labor, anti-competition, defending monopolies, radical power imbalances, amoral behaviors are just the symptoms, not the causes.
The cause is math. Preferential attachment, compound interest, and whatever that gambling thing is called.
Even board games and game shows and school children know this and actively mitigate it. If only to keep the game going and enjoyable.
David Graeber is much better at this sort of thing. Like his calls for redefining work in terms of caring for each other.
Deirdre McCloskey refers to it as the Great Enrichment:
> The rise in the liberal nations has been a stunning 3,000 percent at the least—or if one allows properly for improvements in quality, such as better medicine and better housing (and for that matter, better economics), more like 10,000 percent. A factor of 100. Goodness.
Okay. I was being too coy. Let me try again.
Co-ops are capitalists and distribute all the surplus to the workers.
So not hypothetical.
Importance of co-ops in market economies will continue to grow. Very exciting.
Well, ya, co-ops are technically corporations. But they're generally not corporatists. (For the purposes of a comment thread.)
Just like Karl Marx wasn't a Marxist, a la No True Scotsman fallacy, we all agree that there's a lot of daylight between Sam Walton's profit sharing model and the epitome of corporatism that Walmart became.
Hypothetically. Of course.
It's a bit like Better Angels of Our Nature, which I got about 1/3rd of the way through before getting bored of the same point being demonstrated over and over.
There's something to be said for making serious time for reading serious books, rather than reading them piecemeal over too long a time as I did back then.
The book makes some very strong theories without much explanation, and then finds random tidbids of evidence to support them while ignoring the rest of the world. To me it felt closer to Guns, Germs and Steel than to serious history-of-the-world type of books.
Maybe if the author's theory was less radical it would have worked, but I was having a hard time believing that what he wrote was anywhere near true.
I found `Debt` to be awful and increasingly false the more I learn about the history and purpose of debt through my additional reading and professional experience.
It's definitely a "pop political economics" book, and feels like it.
Try getting an 'A' on this passage. The answer, per Graeber, is in the text. But I'd love to see some other attempts from you all on here. Maybe comment down below and then look at Graeber's answer. Personally, I was unable to solve the last little bit and get an 'A'. It's a very good one to mull over:
Years ago, when I taught at Yale, I would sometimes assign a reading containing a famous Taoist story. I offered an automatic “A” to any student who could tell me why the last line made sense. (None ever succeeded.)
Zhuangzi and Huizi were strolling on a bridge over the River Hao, when the former observed, “See how the minnows dart between the rocks! Such is the happiness of fishes.”
“You not being a fish,” said Huizi, “how can you possibly know what makes fish happy?”
“And you not being I,” said Zhuangzi, “how can you know that I don’t know what makes fish happy?”
“If I, not being you, cannot know what you know,” replied Huizi, “does it not follow from that very fact that you, not being a fish, cannot know what makes fish happy?”
“Let us go back,” said Zhuangzi, “to your original question. You asked me how I knew what makes fish happy. The very fact you asked shows that you knew I knew—as I did know, from my own feelings on this bridge.”
Indeed David, it was fun.
Although he and I disagreed about a number of things, I will forever appreciate him sticking his neck out for me when there was little evidence to suggest it was worth doing.
He certainly got the better of that interaction and he was patient enough to continue the conversation on Twitter later. He was one of those intellectuals (like Noam Chomsky) who is accessible and engaging with members of the public. I wouldn't say I knew him, exactly, but we became internet acquaintances, and I appreciated his thoughtfulness whenever we interacted. I can only imagine how many other people had such opportunities to talk to him and will miss him like I will.
The final chapter of Debt received lots of criticism from lots of people, and Graeber's response was anything but professional. You can see it in the response you link to, right there, where he intimates that DeLong has mental illness. I mean, just look at DeLong's blog. He posts completely normal center-left every couple of days. He's probably an asshole in arguments (he once claimed that a comment by Ed Prescott "failed to pass the Turing test"), but he's like an ordinary dude engaging in ordinary behavior.
I had heard of, but not read, Bullshit Jobs so his HN comments was my first exposure to him. Honestly, I just remember being impressed by his willingness to engage. I'm sure it was painful and exhausting for him, especially his repeated skirmishes with DeLong, but so many authors shy away from challenges to their work so it was refreshing to see someone come into the proletarian trenches that are HN comments and do battle.
Looking forward to that last book he just finished.
He looks fine here. He apparently was still using Twitter on sept 2. It must have been sudden.
David Graber wrote in his bio: «I am currently working with the archaeologist David Wengrow on a whole series of works completely re-imagining the whole question of “the origins of social inequality,” starting with the way the question is framed to begin with.» 
With David Wengrow he published an article "Farewell to the ‘childhood of man’: ritual, seasonality, and the origins of inequality" in 2015.  They did a talk presenting the article.  They published an article "How to change the course of human history (at least, the part that’s already happened)" in 2018.  And "Are we city dwellers or hunter-gatherers?" in 2019.  They talked about their work again in 2019. 
I wonder if they planned to do more. It seemed as something of an even bigger scale than the Debt if turned into a book. But maybe it always was going to be a series of articles.
1 [pdf] - https://haubooks.org/on-kings/
2 [pdf] - http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/62756/
3 [video] - https://vimeo.com/145285143
4 - https://www.eurozine.com/change-course-human-history/
5 - https://newhumanist.org.uk/articles/5409/are-we-city-dweller...
6 [video] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvUzdJSK4x8
7 - https://davidgraeber.industries/contact
Edit: It was going to be a book. In his 2018 cv Graber writes: «As Co-Author or Co-Editor in Preparation
Beyond Inequality, or The Dawn of Everything, or maybe something else. Monograph currently in preparation with David Wengrow (Institute of Archaeology, University College London): a radical rethinking of existing narratives of the
origin of social inequality from 40,000 CE to the present. As currently imagined, this is most likely to be the first volume of a subsequent trilogy that will easily outsell the Lord of the Rings.» 
8 [pdf] - https://davidgraeber.industries/s/DG-spring_summer-2017_18-C...
> as for the Guardian, we will never forget that during the "Labour #antisemitism controversy", they beat even the Daily Mail to include the largest percentage of false statements, pretty much every one, mysteriously, an accidental error to Labour's disadvantage - https://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/1210322505229094912
> these venues only allow people like me on to legitimate themselves; i.e., the Guardian would systematically refuse to allow me to say anything about the Corbyn antisemitism charges, but simultaneously beg me to write about trivial matters like Black Friday. I finally was forced to face up to the reality: they wanted the name of prominent intellectual lefties associated with them so their systematic attacks on the political left would be taken more seriously. We were being used. - https://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/1256291019542401024
> oh I'm definitely not writing for the Guardian again - https://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/1214619782991040512
Reminds me of Christopher Hedges and his experience on the CBC
A pity to lose him. Graeber was unusually fresh, with a talent for provoking interesting discussion, whether one agreed or not. He also got into flamewars on Hacker News: https://news.ycombinator.com/threads?id=davidgraeber.
It's certainly possible that the author didn't choose it but it is possible that Graeber himself didn't object.
[Edit - totally agree about the sadness of his loss]
 [link redacted]
The article sings his praises. The photograph isn't the best, but perhaps it was an attempt to illustrate his quirky and iconoclastic nature.
I fully agree with you that this is a sad loss. Much too soon.
Edit: I realized something about my priors in this case. I've long had the sense that flattering vs. unflattering photo choices are a powerful way by which newspapers (or some faction of editors within them—I don't know how newspapers work) express a pre-existing agenda.
DISCLAIMER: I’m a subscriber.
We jump to conclusions, but we're not always unwarranted. It'd be better to live in a world where we didn't have to suspect ulterior motives.
But alas, hill climbing in an adversarial landscape while continually being preempted and distracted seems to be our lot in life. It's no wonder we're a bit grumpy.
Don't always ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence (or time pressure on deadline). But deliberately choosing unflattering photos is certainly something that happens. It may often be the choice of an individual with an ax to grind, and no oversight, not an implicit policy of the organization
This is more tangential than it is better, but it is a nice read:
Any chance we can get a black bar for him? His ideas were so interesting that I think it would be appropriate, even though he wasn't involved in the history of computing per se.
Below his pinned tweet on the Guardian is this tweet from him, mentioning the writer of the opinion piece you link (Aditya Chakrabortty):
> this is the "cred" they built up by publishing people like me, .@OwenJones84, .@GeorgeMonbiot, .@chakrabortty - all of whom I very much respect. They used us so no one would believe they would simply lie to destroy any chance of a left gov't. But that's exactly what they did. - https://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/1210323190402162704
I actually respect David Graeber a whole lot more than the others he mentions here because he didn't let his access to the Guardian stop him from calling them out. Going as far as to say he wouldn't write for them again.
I know a number of people who will never trust the Guardian again. Unfortunately I know more who simply believed the lies.
I'm glad Graeber said all this because he confirmed what a lot of people suspected was the case.
So an especially sad loss, as well.
All of the accusations of antisemitism were dismissed by his supporters out of hand, but some were legitimate, likely not in any personal antisemitism but in a willingness to turn a blind eye to antisemitism in ideological allies.
David Graeber seems an impressive guy, but that doesn’t mean he’s right in everything.
Even at the end of the year, the Tory party had failed to address it in any meaningful sense
In no way did he get an easy ride. Every single tabloid and media outlet was, on the whole, against him from the start. There was a London School of Economics study a number of years back, showing definively that press coverage of Corbyn was nowhere near balanced. That's not even to take into account that during the election debate, the BBC edited out laughs, by the audience, directed at Johnson's comments. The bbc committed a number of "editorial mistakes" that represented themselves as Tory bias.
or perhaps the article linked from the show notes: https://novaramedia.com/2020/04/14/i-feel-both-furious-and-v...
I'm nowhere near qualified to assess how accurate all of this is, but it all feels eerily similar to how the supposed American left, the Democrats, actively undermined Bernie Sanders in ways that IMO went too far. While I'm sure that's also up for debate, I at least followed the Bernie campaign closely.
> this is the "cred" they built up by publishing people like me, .@OwenJones84, .@GeorgeMonbiot, .@chakrabortty -
I will challenge on the term 'occasional'.
George Monbiot writes a weekly column
Owen Jones writes a regular column
Aditya Chakrabortti writes a regular column and is their senior economics commentator.
This reduces your opening paragraph to, "By regularly publishing left wingers, by employing them on its staff, by publishing left wing material, the Guardian seeks to pass itself off as a left wing paper. " Well...yes.
I should also say that the idea that the Labour anti-semitism scandal was a plot to smear Corbyn, is not universally acknowledged even amongst left wingers.
I spent some time helping collect examples of the Guardian's output during its obsession with attacking Jeremy Corbyn. Try to find comparable coverage in support of Corbyn in the Guardian to offset these attack pieces published between 2015 and 2017: https://theguardian.fivefilters.org (note that Owen Jones, far from being a dissenting voice, joined in with the attacks here, later apologising).
David Graeber tweeted a link to this at the time - after all the Guardian's doomsayers were proven wrong. https://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/874853587880423426
After some time the Guardian intensified its attacks, this time focusing on spurious claims of antisemitism. They refused to run Graeber's piece defending Corbyn. Again, see if you can find comparable coverage defending Corbyn in the Guardian compared to ones trying to tar him with the antisemite brush: https://theguardian.fivefilters.org/antisemitism/
And that's of course not mentioning the study that found the Guardian to be one of the most innacurate in reporting claims of antisemitism (more so than even the Sun and the Daily Mail). That little fact is still the pinned tweet on Graeber's Twitter account, which must really annoy the Guardian when his name's trending on Twitter. https://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/1210322505229094912
I doubt it annoys the Guardian at all. I think they are more than used to this kind of criticism.
Criticism they can ignore (as they often do) I'm sure doesn't bother them. But the widespread resentment toward the Guardian does bother them. It was apparent from their writers' responses when #BoycottTheGuardian was trending on Twitter for example, or more recently when they announced big job cuts and their writers pleas for support were mostly met with derision.
Eg.I was very critical of Corbyn's stance on Brexit, and having a few followers I captured the attention of the Corbynite WhatsApp group run by Seamus Milne's team, and was heavily trolled...Rachel Swindon et al... and I block trolls, so fell out of the Corbynite bubble. The result of this is I have not seen widespread outrage against the Guardian at all. Perhaps widespread in revolutionary socialist circles is a more correct assertion.
This is a conspiracy theory with no basis in fact.
"“I do get advice from them,” she said. “But that’s the end of that.”
She eventually explained that there are several private Twitter DM groups where discussion goes on “all day”, with new pro-Corbyn lines posted alongside anti-Tory memes — which are often taken and repurposed from Facebook groups.
Asked whether Labour officials were in the groups speaking to the pro-Corbyn accounts, she said “Maybe”, smiling."
It was tangential to my point, but Corbynite trolls were just as nasty and just as organized as the right wingers. Everyone not for Corbyn was neoliberal scum, or a 'yellow Tory'. In the end this only serves to shut down real debate and polarise each bubble.
When you got trolled, it wasn't because of a secret WhatsApp group conspiring against you. It was because you said something that a large number of left wing people disagreed with, and Twitter worked the way it usually works and encouraged an organic pile-on. I can assure you that the UK left-wing network on Twitter has no need to get marching orders from a mythical WhatsApp group. If somebody says something that the left disagrees with, pile-ons will happen naturally.
Ironically, by dismissing people who disagree with you as commanded by Seumas Milne, you are shutting down debate yourself.
He's another of the Look-We-Publish-Left-Wing-Opinion go-tos for the Guardian centrists.
It's one thing to wax lyrical about a utopian left wing ideal. It's quite another to then be a willing attack dog for an establishment that is hell bent on killing any hope of something like it flourishing:
"The Corbyn era certainly has been buried. It was never going to survive its complacency over Boris Johnson, its failure to treat allegations of antisemitism with any urgency, or its years spent umm-ing and ahh-ing over Brexit."
One of those examples was part of a baseless smear campaign (partly on behalf of a foreign state) that the Guardian helped spread, quite deliberately.
It's quite audacious for a newspaper to attack a public figure with a baseless smear campaign and then try to attack them on the basis that they didn't appropriately deal with the smear campaign they helped run.
It's disappointing to see 'flamewar' contexualizxed after 'provoking interesting discussion'. Reading through Graeber's long, contradictory, insult-filled, self-important rants, I'm not sure what would motivate this contextualization.
Normally, I might assume good faith, but Graeber's polemical behavior characterizes both a significant part of his work and a significant part of his participation on his site. The contextualization of this kind of unhinged and hateful behavior as some sort of intellectualism is something I find especially repulsive and pernicious.
This suspicion is founded: many of Graeber's claims are also false; in particular, Delong provided a litany of elementary falsehoods in Debt, in which Graeber's inaccurate claim about Apple is merely of especial characteristic inaccuracy--but that's beyond the scope of this post. Zooming back out, if one leads and ends with hateful insults which they cannot justify, that ought to be viewed with deep suspicion. No, DeLong is not a "con-man" who "suckers" people because he wants to call out a book which he feels, and can earnestly argue, is deeply wrong.
Near the end of this long, screenfilling rant, Graeber claims he has been trying to "ignore" DeLong. I didn't know such fits of apoplexy were how you ignored someone.
Graeber went into detail about why DeLong was impossible to ignore, including DeLong apparently creating a twitter bot to attack Graeber (!!).
Graeber's fit of apoplexy wasn't just in that one HN comment. His "ignoring" DeLong was an uninterrupted train of obsessive, one-sided, and often bizarrely misdirected anger and insult. The only "ignoring" was that Graeber, in all his raging against DeLong's trollbot, did not bother do any raging in the form of citing facts or other defense. As DeLong puts it:
> Graeber, of course, makes no attempt to defend his claims in his chapter 12. He doesn't because he can't. Chapter 12 is in fact riddled with errors.... It really appears to be just too easy for people like David Graeber to imagine that they are in a two-month extended conversation where there is a human mind on the other side, when actually they are just the bird pecking itself in the window glass.
That incident was a piece in a longer flamewar in which Graeber, essentially, behaves in the obsessive and intellectually bankrupt manner he accused DeLong of behaving.
As for the actual Debt: The First 5000 Years book, it's engaging, thought-provoking, less opinionated than I was expecting and right about a lot of big things. But his critics aren't wrong that it's also wrong about a lot more small details than the founding of Apple Computer (one I'm surprised none of the academic economists scrutinising his book picked up on: he describes Treatise on Money as Keynes 'most famous work' which is akin to calling Wings Paul McCartney's most famous band. That's particularly surprising in the middle of a passage about Keynes' work which is actually well-informed). Still think it's worth reading for people vaguely interested in the subject matter though.
That's what Gell-Mann amnesia is, really: we believe what we want to believe, and forget the quality of the source.
> I've honestly tried to just ignore the guy, hoping he'll eventually go away, but since he won't, I guess I have to explain what's really going on.
As I described elsewhere, Graeber is also lying when he said he made any serious attempt to ignore DeLong at all.
There were plenty of examples  of unpleasant statements coming from people on a Labour party platform or at their events, which were not dealt with sufficiently quickly or seriously by the Labour Party. They could’ve made this problem go away by just having a proper policy and dealing with these cases swiftly and appropriately. They didn’t.
"The 860-page document claims that “an abnormal intensity of factional opposition to the party leader” had “inhibited the proper functioning of the Labour Party bureaucracy” and contributed to “a litany of mistakes” in dealing with antisemitism, which it admits was a serious problem in the party."
Meanwhile, the Tory party gets a free pass on their rampant Antisemitism and stoking hatred of immigrants.
The centrist and right-wing of the Labour party have a lot to answer for and have clearly displayed that they will stick at nothing to ensure that:
* There is no Green New Deal and the climate crisis is going to happen
* Power remains in the hands of few incompetent fail sons and their sociopathic remoras.
You’re the leader of Labour; your party is being criticised in very damaging ways and (for the sake of argument) it’s because your internal processes are being sabotaged. What do you do? Maybe... look into it? Fix it? Change the people responsible if that’s what it takes? At best, it was weak leadership. At worst, it was a reluctance to discipline political allies.
I think it's pretty clear that Rachel Reeves, Ian Austin et al are not allies when they are funnelling money and faking ad spend, and leaking lies to the press specifically to stop labour from winning.
(I'm not referring to all claims of antisemitism here as lies by the way, but many of the stories that broke in the Guardian were later redacted as bunk)
It's like, what are the priorities here?
We’re not talking about a ranked value system here, we’re talking about an organisation that can do multiple things at the same time.
I don't care if it was exasperated by "saboteurs". If Corbyn can't adopt this basic moral position that all humans ought to adopt, I don't care to hear any excuses at all.
Edit: you seemed to have silently edited your comment to change your argument, so I’ll do the same:
> No. The "real solution" is to oppose anti-semitism with all due expediency.
And the labour leaks show that a faction of the party was purposefully undermining labours ability to do this against the wishes of the leadership. Do you accept this?
> I don't care if it was exasperated by "saboteurs". If Corbyn can't adopt this basic moral position that all humans ought to adopt, I don't care to hear any excuses at all.
That makes no sense: are you really arguing that Corbyn’s political enemies’ actions lead you to hate Corbyn’s moral position, even when it ostensibly matches your own?
Maybe you should have another think before you reply
Conspiracy theories, whataboutism, insults -- these are less than nothing, yet the spineless Corbyn and his supporters dare claim leadership over better people, and fabricate whiny paranoid stories of their persecution. Given that there are liberals and leftists who are not comfortable with pointless evil, everything else is insignificant.
Corbynite Labour is the party you vote for to fight fascism and antisemitism. But instead media parrots like yourself prefer to ignore any nuance because - I suspect - it suits your conservative political ideology.
It’s destructive thought patterns like the ones you are displaying which have allowed Boris Johnson into power. I think you’ll find that if Jewish people in the UK (and I sincerely And truly hope this never, ever happens - to Jews, or any other vulnerable group) is ever treated like they have been in the past, it won’t be from people like Corbyn, it’ll be by people like Patel.
But, you know, you do you.
We would have seen this fiction in USA too, if voters would have just forgotten that Bernie is actually Jewish.
It’s not unreasonable to hold a leader somewhat responsible - it’s not like Trump isn’t criticised (rightly) for things done by other people on his watch.
It is interesting to imagine holding the national leader of a political party responsible for her or his own actions, let alone the antics of other party members. Whatever UK has done to make this possible, we should do. Only, I suspect it will turn into yet another double standard.
Meanwhile, over in actual Israel they're busy setting up an apartheid state and enacting race based policies.
It's simply not possible to be consistently anti racist without being accused of anti-semitism. Rebecca Long Bailey getting fired is simply the latest illustration of that.
Clearly you could decide that you will hold a leader to be (somewhat) responsible simply by virtue of them being the leader, as a matter of principle. However, it seems quite possible to at least _imagine_ situations where a leader is "fatally" undermined by people within their own organisation. Given that, it is worth considering whether that may have been the situation for Corbyn, and if so where culpability lies.
To complete your point, I would contend that this isn't the key issue with Trump - it isn't obvious to me that generalising over these situations is really that useful.
The UK is several decades into successive governments with centre-right leanings to some level or another. New Labour were mayyyyybe centre-left, but Blair had to drag them as far right as he could to get anointed by the media.
I'd be interested to hear how your mind was made up though. The UK benefits from having some pretty strong social systems built into its core but the media seems to be practically one-note in a way I haven't experienced in the other countries I've lived (all European/North American) and the sheer fixation on finding ways to push negative write-ups on him was exhausting. You're getting the same counterarguments because it was pretty much the same things coming up again and again.
Brown, Miliband, Kinnock and the voting reform referendum all got similar carpet bombing treatment; albeit to nowhere near the same levels of venom (although the attacks on Brown and his eye were pretty cruel iirc).
yes, it's a bad look, but one of his few (another one was the infantile Occupy movement).
but, to be factual, anti-semitism in the UK Labour Party has been a thing since the 20th century, and culminated with the recent leader Corbyn:
Anti semitism is a thing in society at large. It's bigger than it is in society in the Conservative Party. It's smaller than it is in society at large in the Labour party, but not entirely non-existent.
The reason it became such an "issue" with Corbyn was about Israel attempting to shield itself from Corbyn's criticism (e.g. land expansion, abuse of palestinians, highly racist policies) and because others found it useful to jump on Israel's bandwagon. It's not because it was common. It wasn't.
Tom Watson (deputy leader, never a corbyn fan) was one of those people.
He even went as far as visiting Isaac Herzog in Israel with a contingent of MPs (all of whom loathed Corbyn) to "apologize" for the "anti semitism problem" in the Labour party: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/nov/15/tom-watson-...
Isaac Herzog, then leader of the Israeli Labour party, is famous for declaring that "race mixing is a tragedy" and refusing to apologize for it. This is who the concerned "anti racists" allied themselves with - an Israeli obsessed with racial purity: https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/isaac-herzogs-remarks-...
The hypocrisy and pearl clutching on this issue was absolutely staggering - especially by the guardian. The fact that something like this can be used to take down an honest politician in this way gives us a terrifying glimpse into the future.
this was an entirely avoidable mess. but Mr Corbyn and his team were so bad at politics that they managed to not only make this non-issue (to the UK voters) an important one, but also be defined by it.
i honestly could not believe such bad politics would ever survive. and of course it didn't. Corbyn is now again a backbencher and his group has been replaced.
* A politician that will speak out against all injustices.
* A politician that will speak out against injustice only when it is politically expedient.
The reason people liked Corbyn was because he was the former. Why do they want the former? Well, because any day you might be the one thrown under a bus because it is politically expedient to do so. In a world where every politician is apparently a lying snake, he was somebody you could trust to be true to his word and true to his principles.
It's not like he spent all of his time on Palestinian issues and none on anything else. This isn't about how he allocated his time at all. The reason this blew up is because Israel decided to engage in the nuclear propaganda option because he had already spoken out against injustice in Palestine and wasn't going to apologize for it. Consequently, they threw everything they had at him and as it turns out they had a multitude of weapons they could deploy.
Note that if he had just shut up about Palestinian issues after becoming leader they would not have left him alone. They had a destroy at all costs mentality. As did many others who were similarly evil with powerful weapons at their disposal (Lord Rothermere, etc.).
This is probably the primary reason we can't have honest, principled politicians (what you described as "bad"). The system will filter them out - usually before they even get to that level and as we can see it will attempt to destroy them if they do.
To have avoided this scenario he would have had to grovel and apologize profusely for speaking out against Palestinian rights in the past. That's the only way this would have gone away. US politicians will do this kind of thing to appease powerful lobbies (e.g. NRA) and as we all know they are a lovely bunch of highly principled human beings who are loved by their people.
The US is actually a good example of what happens over the long term when people instinctively just try to pick the lesser evil and all integrity eventually gets washed out of politics by powerful, entrenched, wealthy groups. It's a long, dark, winding road to some kind of populist fascist leader - an incompetent one if you're lucky, a competent one if you are not.
Here's Jeremy Corbyn condemning two antisemitic attacks:
Sad to read of David Graeber's death. I attended two of his talks in support of Universal Basic Income.
this is why i've written this naivety was one of Mr Graeber's flaws.
as for Mr Corbyn, he was an honest but very weak leader. exemplified by his failure in containing this issue. an issue which to be completely honest is actually a non-issue for the UK considering it's many, more pressing and more important problems.
> In April 2020, an 860-page report into the handling of antisemitism by the party concluded that there was "no evidence" that antisemitism complaints were treated any differently than other forms of complaint, or of current or former staff being "motivated by antisemitic intent.”
So how exactly did it “culminate” with Corbyn?
Irrespective of the merits of the claims made in the report - itself the subject of further independent investigation and lawsuits filed by people criticised in it - it's not something which would have been written if things were going well.
Can't say I really agree with Graeber about this at all, one Jewish leftist to another. Told him so over Twitter at one point. Think someone blocked me after this conversation, but it wasn't David.
Gonna miss him.
I think for me, the past decade.
It's valuable, and part of a conversation which is quite current.
But it isn't gospel.
Making factual errors that economic historians have to point out doesn’t help to demistify it, unfortunately.
I also wouldn’t expect someone who probably wouldn’t be able to pass the Ideological Turing Test to “demistify” the opposite view. Graeber didn’t know much modern economics and can’t adequately engage with the economic literature, he made foolish claims like “ economists still teach their students that the primary economic role of government—many would insist, its only really proper economic role—is to guarantee price stability.”
I am not saying there is nothing to criticize in economics, but to criticize something you need to understand it, so naturally some of the best criticisms of economics come from economists and adjacent professions, and that’s how the field keeps changing and developing. Just like any other academic discipline.
That's exactly what he was doing. The fallacious story he debunks about money appearing naturally via barter was one I first read in an economics textbook (Mankiw I think).
Modern economists really don't tend to spend a lot of time on historical analysis. That includes the default theory on the origin of money. This is a point that this example was supposed to illustrate. It is far from the only one but it has the benefit of being fairly clear cut.
They do tend to spend their time on polemics (driven by the way politics has driven the profession and the monetary incentives therein) or building elaborate mathematical models instead (driven by what i'd call 'hard science envy').
It wouldn't be the only academic profession to have intellectual blind spots, of course, and Graeber wouldn't be the first person to point out this one. Niall Ferguson, a more right-leaning historian/economist, has also made this point.
> Honestly, have you read the book?
Because the quote you provided is not from the book being discussed.
Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (2004):
It struck me as some really original thinking
I just spoke about his work (and what to do about it) during my recent keynote at PyConJP, I was just about to send him the video of it, now I can't. A horrible feeling.
I met David after a reading one time, a very kind and intelligent man. (Weirdly enough, Peter Theil was also there. He is a lizard creature). If he was an asshole at times, he was an asshole in the good kind of way. The world lost a gem today.
That sounds strange. What do you mean?
I don't have a lot of room in my reading list, currently, but if _Bullshit Jobs_ is comparable in quality, I could move it into the queue ...
I found both books insightful and enjoyable to read and would highly recommend them to anyone.
Debt is more academic, and it uproots many societal misconceptions about money and debt through the aeons. It is an excellent read for anyone interested in anthropology/sociology/economics, but it is dense and it is not an easy read.
As other posters pointed out, you can read Bullshit Jobs in a couple of days, but Debt can easily take months to finish.
Pour one out.
> Why do animals play? Well, why shouldn’t they? The real question is: Why does the existence of action carried out for the sheer pleasure of acting, the exertion of powers for the sheer pleasure of exerting them, strike us as mysterious? What does it tell us about ourselves that we instinctively assume that it is?
For anyone who was influenced by Dawkins in high school it's a breath of fresh air, our world doesn't have to be bound to dogmatic religion or even dogmatic selfishness.
Also, that quote on playing just dodges the question. Why is what we call "play" so pleasurable to animals? "Because they enjoy it" is not an answer. Why don't animals do other things for pleasure? And there are very good evolutionary arguments, but that's not the point now.
> The epitome of this line of thought came with militant atheist Richard Dawkins’s book The Selfish Gene—a work that insisted all biological entities were best conceived of as “lumbering robots,” programmed by genetic codes that, for some reason no one could quite explain, acted like “successful Chicago gangsters,” ruthlessly expanding their territory in an endless desire to propagate themselves. Such descriptions were typically qualified by remarks like, “Of course, this is just a metaphor, genes don’t really want or do anything.” But in reality, the neo-Darwinists were practically driven to their conclusions by their initial assumption: that science demands a rational explanation, that this means attributing rational motives to all behavior, and that a truly rational motivation can only be one that, if observed in humans, would normally be described as selfishness or greed. As a result, the neo-Darwinists went even further than the Victorian variety. If old-school Social Darwinists like Herbert Spencer viewed nature as a marketplace, albeit an unusually cutthroat one, the new version was outright capitalist. The neo-Darwinists assumed not just a struggle for survival, but a universe of rational calculation driven by an apparently irrational imperative to unlimited growth.
It goes on to discuss an alternative to the neo-Darwinist view and brings back to the core thesis of the piece, play. I'd really just massacre the thesis if I summarized it so if you find that interesting or disagree I'd really read his piece I linked above!
> all biological entities were best conceived of as “lumbering robots,” programmed by genetic codes
Either this is just physicalism (which is quite well accepted among most scientists) or assumes the straw Darwinist is a genetic determinist and denies environmental effects, which is misleading.
> ruthlessly expanding their territory in an endless desire to propagate themselves
When Darwinists say something approaching this, they are talking about genes and not people and indeed it is merely a metaphor.
> that science demands a rational explanation, that this means attributing rational motives to all behavior
No, quite the opposite. It's not about rational motives, the whole point is there is no intelligence behind it, no "intelligent design" no reasoning. The whole thing emerges from natural selection and the fact that gene proportions will change from generation to generation and this process is not fully random: some genes succeed more than others through the properties they lend to organisms.
Again, let's not conflate social Darwinism as an ideology with Darwinian evolutionary theory, of which Dawkins' book is merely a popularizer. Also, at the time of writing The Selfish Gene, Dawkins wasn't so obsessed with being a militant atheist as in the last ~15 years or so. The Selfish Gene is a pretty uncontroversial in a scientific sense, but it's quite unfortunate in its title and many people don't want to put in the mental effort of thinking about evolutionary mechanisms. It's the type of thinking we use for math puzzles or a hacking, and it's unpleasant to most people so they jump back to arguing about politics and "surely they actually mean XYZ, let's not bother engaging with the actual words in the book..."
And just on the side, I don't particularly like Dawkins as a person, I find his books on atheism quite dull and weak-manning religion, his tweets annoying and provocative in a cringe-inducing way, and his intellectual output over the last decade disappointing overall. Doesn't mean I feel the need to caricature the scientific arguments.
Have you read the article I linked? If you haven't read it then I don't think this is really a productive conversation and my point stands about how it should be understood fully in the scientific history he provides it, not my pull quotes.
He also had one of the best laughs I've heard.
He will be missed.
(avoid if OCD..)
I thoroughly enjoyed "Debt"'s perspective on social-economic collaboration, money, credit, debt, and contract arbitration. It's a very informative and thought provoking book.
"Bullshit" grossly misses some fundamental aspects about modern markets and power structures and as a result turns into an insipid, meandering grievance without substance. The commentary mistakes social-welfare states which have monopoly enforcement on: credit repayment (legal tender), and authoritarian control of the means of production (permitting) as capitalism (_private_ ownership and deployment of goods and services). As a result, the entire subsequent criticism that follows in the book is misguided. If I had to summarize it: "Economic (consumer's-goods) producers are supremely inefficient in the deployment of labor, resources, time, production quantity which results in a social malaise". It implicitly pathologizes the choices of people who work in the "bullshit" jobs as unable to make nuanced, multivariable decisions. Yes, it may be the case a security camera would be a more efficient observer to an empty lot than paying a human, bored out of their mind, to sit in a hut. But that critique denies the economic calculus the hut worker made, that this job was the most ideal option out of the many different dimensions available to them.
If the set of available options cannot be combined to produce desired results, it's not possible to combine inputs among a further reduced set of options to produce the desired results ("regulation"). The only option is to increase the set of available options (liberalization, de-monopolization), to produce different outcomes. The entire book fails to address to roll of entrepreneurship, e.g. a speculative endeavor by an individual or group that they can deploy labor, resources, time, production quantity in a more ideal and enjoyable arrangement. The absence is a shame because instead of the book being a diatribe, it could have been a powerful call to action to improve our lot.
If you'd like an antidote to his book Debt, Money Changes Everything: How Finance Made Civilization Possible is useful. Debt may be called "5,000 years of anecdotes:" https://jacobinmag.com/2012/08/debt-the-first-500-pages.
This: https://quillette.com/2019/09/09/the-anarchist-and-the-anthr... also doesn't cover him with glory.
He did think differently and often intelligently, which is to be admired, but "Different and also correct" is different from simply "different."
I liked his writing; for its style and because it made me think. I like that. It doesn't imply total agreement or fanaticism, and neither does it imply hostility or disagreement.
I would offer, from your first link, part of a comment lifted from its comment thread (even if I might dispute the commenter's use of the word "tiny"):
... We can all pick over tiny details in books and engage in hermeneutic readings…. It’s not hard.…. [W]hat’s going to be remembered, David’s book with its intellectually revolutionary message, one that has inspired so many young economists that I meet or DeLong’s pedantic complaints about ambiguous meanings and contentious issues.… Who wins in the contest for etiquette? I don’t know. But who wins the intellectual argument? Again, let history decide. But I’m thinking Graeber.
Yes it's an illuminating read. :-)