Sunday, December 11, 2011

Anarchist Theory and Occupy Wall Street

Filed under: Books | Economy — by Will Kirkland @ 8:49 pm
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The back page of this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review has a welcome few words about David Graeber:

The anthropologist David Graeber has a strong claim to being the house theorist of Occupy Wall Street. A veteran of the antiglobalization uprisings in Seattle and Genoa, he helped orchestrate the first “General Assembly” in New York this summer, and has since become one of the movement’s most outspoken defenders. For him, the encampments in cities across the country prefigure the kind of anti-hierarchical, stateless society that ought to be our future.

Although the lede has to do with his OWS credentials, perhaps more important is the pointer to his newest book:

DEBT: The First 5,000 Years (Melville House, $32) reads like a lengthy field report on the state of our economic and moral disrepair. 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.



So this is a quick way to say that OWS has more to it than tent cities around the world; interesting thinking is working its way through those tents; that  David Graeber is worth following. Here, for example, is a talk he gave at the London School of Economics, titled Beyond Power/Knowledge, an exploration of the relation of power, ignorance and stupidity.   He was once the student of Marshall Sahlins, on of the more interesting anthropologists of recent times. [" His early work focused on criticising the idea of 'economically rational man' and to demonstrate that economic systems adapted to particular circumstances in culturally specific ways."  In particular see his "The Original Affluent Society."]

The reviewer in the Times, Thomas Meaney, is the editor of The Utopian, also worth your attention.

1 Comment

  1. Jack Thompson:

    Thanks for this post. Very interesting.

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Perhaps an honest world will never exist. But what's to keep us from dreaming? If each one of us tries to change, maybe we'll succeed.

Rita Atria -- The Sicilian Rebel

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