Professor of anthropology David Graeber provides an overview of the possibilities for an anarchist approach to anthropological research. Thanks for the e-book of this popular text. Kindle users may have to convert this file [via Calibre, a free e-book program] to a "true" MOBI file first. I found the AZW3 one that is embedded here unable to open on a direct transfer attempt from the original file to a Kindle upload. The country-wide rebellion that was kicked off by the police murder of George Floyd continues to grow, as across the US people hit the streets in solidarity.
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The anthropologist David Graeber has a strong claim to being the house theorist of Occupy Wall Street. For him, the encampments in cities across the country prefigure the kind of anti-hierarchical, stateless society that ought to be our future. In the best tradition of anthropology, Graeber treats debt ceilings, subprime mortgages and credit default swaps as if they were the exotic practices of some self-destructive tribe.
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. What makes the work more than a screed is its intricate examination of societies from ancient Mesopotamia to s Madagascar, and thinkers ranging from Rabelais to Nietzsche — and to George W. That an anthropologist should feel obliged to assess the role of debt in modern society is perhaps no surprise.
The discipline has always taken pride in undermining the assumptions of classical economics. The dominant practice for thousands of years was instead voluntary gift-giving, which created a binding sense of obligation between potentially hostile groups.
To give a gift was not an act based on calculation, but on the refusal to calculate. In the societies Mauss studied most closely — the Maori of New Zealand, the Haida of the Pacific Northwest — people rejected the principles of economic self-interest in favor of arrangements where everyone was perpetually indebted to someone else. Picking up where Mauss left off, Graeber argues that once-prevalent relationships based on an incalculable sense of duty deteriorated as buying and selling became the basis of society and as money, previously a marker of favors owed, became valuable in its own right.
The first interest-bearing loans originated in ancient Mesopotamia. Poor farmers would borrow from merchants or officials, fall into arrears, see their farms and livestock seized and, in many cases, their families taken as debt peons. The traditional understanding of debt as moral obligation changed radically in the 17th century, according to Graeber, when people started to see themselves as independent contractors who could rent out their services to fellow citizens.
But there was a dark side to these developments. So what, then, is to be done? Graeber finds reasons for hope in some unexpected places: corporations where elite management teams often operate more communistically than communes; in the possibility of a Babylonian-style Jubilee for Third World nations and students saddled with government loans; and from his own study of the Malagasy people of Madagascar, who he claims were adept at evading the snares of consumer debt encouraged by the state.
Graeber approves. Whatever becomes of the Occupy movements, the politics of debt are now our politics. While politicians argue over how to unwind our liabilities, Graeber uses his reading of the historical and ethnographic record to imagine a world where such liabilities might be forgiven altogether.
Book Review Anarchist Anthropology. Home Page World U.
Fragments of an anarchist anthropology - David Graeber
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Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology
Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology is one of a series of pamphlets published by Prickly Paradigm Press in Graeber posits that anthropology is "particularly well positioned" as an academic discipline that can look at the gamut of human societies and organizations, to study, analyze and catalog alternative social and economic structures around the world, and most importantly, present these alternatives to the world. One of the most striking suggestions in the pamphlet challenges the traditional anarchist notion of aggressive confrontation with the state. Graeber did postgraduate work with tribal cultures in Madagascar , including one with the Tsimihety in the northwest of the country. The Tsimihety, rejecting all governmental authority and organizing their society along very egalitarian lines, were able to continue their autonomy and culture for decades on end, up to the present, not by confronting the government, but by retreating. Graeber writes,.
Social workers advised him that, in order to pay for the home care she needed, he should apply for Medicaid, the US government health insurance programme for people on low incomes. If so, how many years of our life do we spend doing paperwork? But the form-filling ordeal stayed with him. Being somehow put in a position where one actually does end up acting like an idiot? How did I not notice that the signature was on the wrong line? Its main purpose is to free us from a rightwing misconception about bureaucracy. Wrong, Graeber argues.