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David Graeber (1) (1961–2020)

Author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years

For other authors named David Graeber, see the disambiguation page.

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About the Author

David Rolfe Graeber was born February 12, 1961 in New York. He was an anthropologist, anarchist, author, and a professor at the London School of Economics. He was an outspoken critic of economic and social inequality. He coined the phrase "We are the 99 Percent,' the slogan of the Occupy Wall show more Street movement." He earned his BA in anthropology from State University of New York at Purchase in 1984. He earned his masters and doctorate from the University of Chicago. He did ethnographic research in central Madagascar which he used for his PhD thesis (1997). He was a prolific author. His books included Debt: The First 5000 Years (2011), The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement (2013), The Utopia of Rules (2015), Bullshit Jobs: A Theory (2018), and in fall 2021, Farrar, Straus & Giroux will publish The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, written with David Wengrow. David Graeber died on September 2, 2020 at the age of 59. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Works by David Graeber

Debt: The First 5,000 Years (2011) — Author — 2,649 copies
Bullshit Jobs: A Theory (2018) — Author — 1,288 copies
Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (2005) — Author — 493 copies
On Kings (2017) — Author — 76 copies
21 jaar werk 3 copies
Give It Away 2 copies
Dupogodzina (2013) 1 copy
Communism 1 copy
Buncombe 1 copy

Associated Works


Common Knowledge



The Dawn of Everything by Graeber and Wengrow in One Book One Thread (September 4)


A great topic with a lot of redundant information.
atrillox | 35 other reviews | Nov 27, 2023 |
Interesting book. It's mostly pretty readable - more so than most academic books, although there are some difficult parts - although it's definitely focused towards a somewhat more academic audience and you'll have problems unless you understand some basic anthropological concepts. I like his talk about focusing on actions and potentials creating a society rather than the common idea of seeing rules that get put into practise with a clear separation between the two. His more typical anthropological discussions are fascinating. Pointing out that market ideology prioritises individual consumption as the only pleasure when almost all pleasures are really social (for example love, friendship) is important to show how market ideology is a poor understanding of "human nature". The idea of separation between external visible power - a representation of how you want to be treated based on how people have treated you in the past - and internal invisible power - the capacity for action based on internal powers - is interesting and useful. There's lots of individual interesting stuff.

However, he sort of doesn't really have a conclusion or summation of what he's been saying anywhere. I understood some points he was making but I felt a bit confused as to what he really wanted the take away points to be and how exactly he wanted to improve discourse around value. The ending just sort of peters out. I didn't really feel like I got a coherent set of ideas, more like lots of stuff that's kind of separate. I mean that's obviously still worthwhile, just a bit frustrating cause I feel it could have been improved with another 10 pages focusing as a retrospective and linkage.

Ultimately: good, worthwhile book if you're interested in anthropology, leftist politics, and ideas about value and how society is constructed, but let down a bit by a non-ending and a lack of clarity in how everything ties together. Good book but not essential.
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tombomp | 1 other review | Oct 31, 2023 |
An excellent, highly readable history of debt, our conceptions of it and how it has affected our entire political life. Has a LOT of stories and anecdotes and stuff from various times in history. Skimpy on some details but that's inevitable when you're doing such a wide ranging history and he always says enough to illustrate his point. I disagree with some of the stuff he says from a Marxist perspective but it's not totally shit - it's just I think he does the typical anarchist thing of ascribing changes to an amorphous "state." Ultimately though I thoroughly enjoyed it. A radical book that does a great job of challenging our preconceived notions of economics and what's "natural", pointing the way towards radical change and providing a fascinating historical primer along the way.… (more)
tombomp | 67 other reviews | Oct 31, 2023 |
As always, Graeber manages to observe the world we live in and describe how it is utterly bizarre. Whether or not you agree with Graeber's analysis, he will make you think differently about our society.

This book has four essays focusing on various aspects of bureaucracy and how we hate it but how afraid we are of a world without it.
Gwendydd | 13 other reviews | Oct 29, 2023 |



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