david graeber


intro’d to David while reading Kevin Carson‘s desktop – money revelations, debt, et al – ch 5

re-intro here:

oct 2014

Russell Brand And David Graeber Talk ‘Mafia Capitalism’ And Cancelling Debt


19 min – wow.. 1 out of 7 have bailiff order on them?..

drone – debt resistors operational manual

20 min – holding the system up is scare propaganda..

23 min – has to be international.. don’t think it can happen through election – david

30 min – grassroots – but aren’t we on a bit of a time clock? via russell

terrified of people coming together and realizing their neighbors aren’t crazy, no longer needing politicians.. – david

32 min – let’s start experimenting with like – debt cancelation.. money is just a promise – david

ha. furious – that’s the logic of debt

this are things we made up – we can make them up different – david

debt cancellation, basic income, (the rolling jubilee – reset button)

i’m an anarchist – so i believe in solutions that involve the govt doing less – david


46 min – key is to help people realize they are capable.. the moment you realize things aren’t impossible – changes entire coneption – everything else falls into place – david

perhaps prison as service – norden.. ness – 51 min ish

55 min – the word anarchy frightens people in power so they make sure everyone else is frightened too

59 min – talking what kinds of debts to wipe out

1:01 – talking pluralistic ignorance – once we bold up – govt already has a way to cancel all debts et al..

1:04 – we just need to open it up – we don’t have to have it all figured out – then it wouldn’t be democratic – inventors never know what they’re going to invent.. – david

1:12 – banks have to loan – that’s how they get their money

if everybody stopped paying debts tomorrow – that would mean we’re all already connected enough – to have made that happen – the moment we get together and coordinate – games over.. that’s why it’s so important for there to be means to keep us apart

1:14 – a debt – a promise that’s been perverted (because non-changeable) .. society is just a bunch of promises.. so there can be good debt

1:16 – why people don’t care – because this isn’t really a democratic system


from laws\ish

graeber f&b same law

graeber grant law

graeber increase b law

graeber job\less law

graeber mechs to hear law

graeber min\max law

graeber rethink law

graeber revolution lawgraeber model law

graeber unrealistic law

graeber values law

infra for graeber anarchism law: 2 convos

wengrow/graeber top down law

graeber bi law

giant puppets

david on science of people

david on dawn of everything

david & david on stupid savage

david on mutual aid

on david dying

fragments of an anarchist anthropology

david is funny

david on consensus



utopia of rules

caring labor and interpretive labor

human history – w/David Wengrow (also here – notes from their mar 2018 talk on slavery rejection)

on kings

lost people


from ch 8 in Russell‘s revolution:

i asked him (David) if we could formulate a centralized revolutionary movement to coordinate transition… “well, my own approach is to avoid constituting any sort of new authority, … my dream is to create a thousand autonomous institutions that can gradually take over the business of organizing everyday life, pretty much ignoring the authorities, until gradually the whole apparatus of state comes to seem silly, unnecessary, ...


feb 2012:

Authors@Google: David Graeber, DEBT: The First 5,000 Years

2 min – iwan baan ness in madagascar

4 min – about paying debt back – 12ish responses depending on who you’re talking to.. striking – this common sensical about – you have to pay your debt.. what is it about debt that you can imagine – this moral power – that you wouldn’t otherwise.. perhaps – 1) no one has ever written the history of debt (history of money – turns out to be history of coinage.. or possible credit – not exactly the same thing)

7 min – most of our common sense about debt is wrong – that convo has been happening for about 5000 yrs, ie: treating paying of debt as morality.. or morality as paying of debts

13 min – what’s divine is not paying debts, what’s divine is forgiving debts

when you do think of debt is sin.. the question is – which one is the sinner..

18 min ? – if you’re working on the level of exchange… you only have relations when someone’s done something wrong.. debt becomes basis of sociality.. debt keeps you needing to see each other – to pay it back

i think this is touching on what rubs me wrong about Charles – the obligation piece.

20 min – community means everybody owes everybody else and everybody remembers what they owe

21 min – a debt: something you can phrase in quantifiable terms.. to not transferable..

22 min – pet peeve – w/adam smith story from 1770 – defined the text books – and they’re not true but can’t get it changed.. ie: arrangement for a swap, but can’t make a deal, so settle on something everyone wants, ie: gold. then virtuous circle.. govt gets involved.. barter, money, credit, ….  one big problem, we’ve never found a single community that goes, i’ll give you 40 chickens for that cow..

25 min – problem: reason story wouldn’t happen. assuming people only deal with spot trade.. why would they do that.. they’re neighbors… what would really happen – if you praise someone else’s possession – it’s almost impossible to not give it to the person that praises it. only one way out – to say – it was a gift.

29 min – so how does that turn into a formula/numbers..? when someone gets angry… that association of money and violence is a constant. explains why debt tends to take on this powerful hold.

32 min – if you are in a situation of inequality.. way to make victim seem like the one to blame – is to frame it in debt.

33 min – problem – language is like translation of a business deal – so you should be on equal levels.. so always blows up. .. debt immobilizes people because it says: we are supposed to be equals – but you messed up – and owe me.

36 min – you’re stuck with the language of debt as a way to talk about politics

38 min – actually in history – credit comes first

41 min – virtual money – is the original form, the barter from smith happens when they run out of money and they try to barter as if they had money (ie: with formulas/numbers)

42 min – money in physical sense is actually invented to pay soldiers

44 min – if (adam smith) money came into being to take care of the ease in exchange.. then why did taxes appear. but rather.. this makes perfect sense if you’re trying to feed an army. tax – a way of creating market. they called it moralizing tax – teach people value of a war.

55 min – credit cards 71, … micro credit to save world.. blows up in 2008

56 min – have to have a protection mechanism… ie: period after which you dismiss debts.. we basically did it backwards.. protecting creditors ..  we have all these laws so that we don’t sell ourselves to others.. and yet if historians came to visit – they’d say we’re here.  we do still have time to get it right.

59 min – if democracy means anything now – it means everybody gets to weigh in on what debt, et al, means

1:01 – it’s interesting that our notions of what money should do goes back to medieval thinking, ie: 5% investment rate. i’m a radical – so i’m not going to be stipulating rates of return.. i’d throw it out.. jubilee ish. because that would allow us to re conceptualize what we’re doing and rethink money.

1:04 –  think we should start thinking about completely different systems.. radically different.

1:05 – who’s it all owed to – everyone seems to be in debt. since 70’s – theory: all social problems can be solved through debt

1:19 – paying a debt means you plan to never see the person again

1:21 – commerce gives us this idea that we want to frame everything in commercial terms..  once we all agree to it ..we realize we can’t.


2012 interview on debt and a bit on occupy:



original (2011) update version(2014)


book links to amazon


no more waiting (book recommend to library) and reading reviews of reviews (recorded below) … finally got the book. thank you seth.

debt highlights kindle


ch 1: on the experience of moral confusion

surely one has to pay ones’ debts… the reason it’s so powerful is that ti’s not actually an economic statement: it’s a moral statement.. isn’t paying one’s debts what morality is supposed to be all about? giving people what is due to them.

charles’ (non-resonating) bit on obligation

consumer debt is the lifeblood of our economy…. the very fact that we don’t know what debt is, the very flexibility of the concept, is the basis of its power.

there’s no better way to justify relations founded on violence, to make such relations seem moral, than by reframing them in the language of debt—above all, because it immediately makes it seem that it’s the victim who’s doing something wrong.

Arguments about who really owes what to whom have played a central role in shaping our basic vocabulary of right and wrong.

What, precisely, does it mean to say that our sense of morality and justice is reduced to the language of a business deal?

money’s capacity to turn morality into a matter of impersonal arithmetic – and by doing so, to justify things that would otherwise seem outrageous or obscene.

when one looks a little closer, one discovers that these two elements—the violence and the quantification—are intimately linked.

the way violence, or the threat of violence, turns human relations into mathematics…

there’s nothing new about virtual money. Actually, this was the original form of money.

bitcoin ness – and even basic income ness..

the one thing that all these misconceptions have in common, we will find, is that they tend to reduce all human relations to exchange.

the very principle of exchange emerged largely as an effect of violence – –

the real origins of money are to be found in crime and recompense, war and slavery, honor, debt, and redemption.

ch 2: the myth of barter

1776 – adam smith – brings discipline of economics into being. – (330 bc aristotle.) –  smith expanded on argument, insisting that property, money, and markets not only existed before political institution but were the very foundation of human society. .. smith’s argument is worth laying out in detail because it is, as i say, the great founding myth of the discipline of economics. (ie: humans’ propensity toward barter/swapping.. even logic and conversation are really just forms of trading – seeking best advantage.. money is just most efficient means..)

then into no evidence/example of a barter economy…  not that it doesn’t exist… just never employed as smith imagined, between fellow villagers. ordinarily, it takes place between strangers, even enemies.

the vision of the world that forms the basis of the economics textbooks, which Adam Smith played so large a part in promulgating, has by now become so much a part of our common sense that we find it hard to imagine any other possible arrangement

barter is what you do with those to whom you are not bound by ties of hospitality (or kinship, or much of anything else)

virtual money came first, then coins much later.. unevenly.. never completely replacing credit systems. barter… seems to be largely accidental byproduct… when no access to currency..

ch 3: primordial debts

keynes’ next dramatic assertion: that banks create money, and that there is no intrinsic limit to their ability to do so.

for example, there is a connection between money (german geld), indemnity or sacrifice (old english geild), tax (gothic gild) and, of course, guilt.

the Sumerian word amargi, the first recorded word for “freedom” in any known human language, literally means “return to mother.

biggest problem… the initial assumption: that we begin with an infinite debt to something called “society.” – ie: what is society.

only way of ‘freeing oneself’ … not literally repaying.. but showing debts don’t exist .. because one is not separate to begin with.. [..] .. human freedom would then be our ability to decide for ourselves how we want to do so.

problem… thinking that the guardian of that debt we owe.. is the state

ch 4: cruelty and redemption

nietzsche 1877 – on personal obligation – To set prices, to measure values, to think up equivalencies, to exchange things—that preoccupied man’s very first thinking to such a degree that in a certain sense it’s what thinking itself is.

the human being describes himself as a being which assesses values, which values and measures, as the “inherently calculating animal.”

from peter freuchen’s book of the eskimo:

He thanked him. The man objected indignantly: “Up in our country we are human!” said the hunter. “And since we are human we help each other. We don’t like to hear anybody say thanks for that. What I get today you may get tomorrow. Up here we say that by gifts one makes slaves and by whips one makes dogs.

Rather than seeing himself as human because he could make economic calculations, the hunter insisted that being truly human meant refusing to make such calculations, refusing to measure or remember who had given what to whom, for the precise reason that doing so would inevitably create a world where we began “comparing power with power, measuring, calculating” and reducing each other to slaves or dogs through debt.

nehemiah – the law of jubilee

ch 5: a brief treatise on the moral grounds of economic relations

those tenets have come to be treated as received wisdom, as basically beyond question (one knows one is in the presence of received wisdom when, if one challenges some tenet of it, the first reaction is to treat one as simply ignorant—“You obviously have never heard of the Laffer Curve”; “Clearly you need a course in Economics 101”—the theory is seen as so obviously true that no one exposed to it could possibly disagree).

I will define communism here as any human relationship that operates on the principles of “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.”


The sociology of everyday communism is a potentially enormous field, but one which, owing to our peculiar ideological blinkers, we have been unable to write about because we have been largely unable to see it.

revolution of everyday life ness

true charity – anonymous – not meant to place the recipient in one’s debt.

ie: santa claus – a benevolent burglar

the logic of identity is, always and everywhere, entangled in the logic of hierarchy.

identity ness

(back to author of book of the eskimo) – gift here does not mean something given freely not mutual aid that we can ordinarily expect human beings to provide to one another . to thank someone suggests that he or she might not have acted that way , and that therefore the choice to act this way creates an obligation, a sense of debt – and hence, inferiority.

True, if we were really determined, we could argue (as some do) that communism is a condition of permanent mutual indebtedness, or that hierarchy is constructed out of unpayable debts. But isn’t this just the same old story, starting from the assumption that all human interactions must be, by definition, forms of exchange, and then performing whatever mental somersaults are required to prove it?

.. a set of assumptions of what humans are and what they owe one another, that have by now become so deeply ingrained that we cannot see them.

ch 6: games with sex and death

if we are trying to understand the origins of money here, isn’t the fact that people are using one another as currency at all interesting or significant?

Again, once we remove some of our usual blinders, we can see that matters have changed far less, over the course of the last five thousand years or so, than we really like to think.

“human economies.” By this I mean not that these societies are necessarily in any way more humane (some are quite humane; others extraordinarily brutal), but only that they are economic systems primarily concerned not with the accumulation of wealth, but with the creation, destruction, and rearranging of human beings.

philippe rospabé’s argument on primitive money – not a way to pay debts – but recognizing they can’t be paid.

hierarchical gifts – never occurred to recipients that they should reciprocate

lele – trading human lives – which actually mean (young) woman’s life

in other words, it was only when violence was brought into the equation that there was any question of buying and selling people

we have perhaps a general principle: to make something saleable, in a human economy, one needs to first rip it from its context. that’s what slaves are: people stolen from the community that made them what they are.

The Lele example gave us a hint: to make a human being an object of exchange, one woman equivalent to another, for example, requires first of all ripping her from her context; that is, tearing her away from that web of relations that makes her the unique conflux of relations that she is, and thus, into a generic value capable of being added and subtracted and used as a means to measure debt. This requires a certain violence.

rip from a&a, own song ness, ..

To what degree is it actually constitutive of civilization itself? I am not speaking strictly of slavery here, but of that process that dislodges people from the webs of mutual commitment, shared history, and collective responsibility that make them what they are, so as to make them exchangeable—that is, to make it possible to make them subject to the logic of debt.

dislodging of people.. how to detox that subjection to the logic of debt..

ch 7: honor and degradation

there is every reason to believe that slavery, with its unique ability to rip human beings from their contexts, to turn them in to abstractions, played a key role in the rise of markets everywhere.

reconstructing this history reveals how much our basic concepts of freedom and morality took shape within institutions—notably, but not only, slavery—that we’d sooner not have to think about at all.

to be made a slave is to be stripped of any possible honor.

His problem was that honor is, by definition, something that exists in the eyes of others. To be able to recover it, then, a slave must necessarily adopt the rules and standards of the society that surrounds him, and this means that, in practice at least, he cannot absolutely reject the institutions that deprived him of his honor in the first place. It strikes me that this experience—of only being able to restore one’s lost honor, to regain the ability to act with integrity by acting in accord with the terms of a system that one knows, through deeply traumatic personal experience, to be utterly unjust—is itself one of the most profoundly violent aspects of slavery.

thinking of Ed and convos with Steve et al

this might help explain why throughout most of history, when slaves did rebel against their masters, they rarely rebelled against slavery itself. … the flip side…even slave-owners seemed to feel that this whole arrangement was somehow fundamentally perverse or unnatural.

slavery is the ultimate form of being ripped from one’s context, and thus from all social relationship that make one a human being. another way to put this is that the slave is, in a very real sense, dead.

so – what are we slaves to today. now. no?

one becomes a slave in situations where one would otherwise have died.

slavery is unlike any other form of human relation because it is not a moral relation. slave-owners might dress it up in all sorts of legalistic or paternalistic language, but really this is just window-dressing and no one really believes otherwise; really, it is a relation based purely on violence; a slave must obey because if he doesn’t, he can be beaten, tortured, or killed, and everyone is perfectly well aware of this.

violent men, as we all know are almost invariably obsessed with honor

honor – one part – having everything to do with the kind of violence required to reduce human beings to commodities to begin with

honor is a zero sum game

ancient greek, the word for honor was time

earliest sumerian texts – 3000-2500 bc, women are everywhere… rulers, doctors, merchants, scribes, public officials,….

mid assyrian (lerner) law code dating 1400-1100bc, 1st known reference to veiling in the history of the middle east

greek coinage – first use mainly to pay soldiers, fined, fees to govt… but by 600 bc every greek city-state producing owns (independent) coins

money democratizing – because everybody wanted it

plato captured.. offered for sale.. a libyan philosopher.. recognized him and ransomed him..  annikeris refused to accept money plato offered as thanks.. plato then used the 20 minas to buy land for a school.. the famous academy


property is not really a relation between a person and a thing. it’s an understanding or arrangement between people concerning things.

on freedom being natural and slavery unnatural – so then – property rights et al.. unnatural…

one man’s right is simply another man’s obligation

orland ness

heroes become heroes by making others small.

in heroic societies, the role of violence is not hidden – it’s glorified.

king and slave are mirror images, in that unlike normal human beings who are defined by their commitments to others, they are defined only by relations of power.

Most of our most precious rights and freedoms are a series of exceptions to an overall moral and legal framework that suggests we shouldn’t really have them in the first place.

..we’re no longer able to imagine what a world based on social arrangements that did not require the continual threat of tasers and surveillance cameras would even look like.

ch 8: credit versus bullion

earliest mention of: freedom; debt prison;

jubilee ness & tax as safety net, ie: keep people from selling children for food

ch 9: the axial age (800-600 bc)

Each case witnessed the development of something akin to a drop-out culture, with ascetics and sages fleeing to the wilderness or wandering from town to town seeking wisdom;

axial age.. birth of philosophies/religions – corresponds almost exactly to period in which coinage was invented – written word no longer limited to priests, admin, merchants… but had become necessary to full participation in civic life..

in both india & china.. invented by private citizens, coinage was quickly monopolized by the state

merchants – ardent supporters of new religion

w/o mass literacy, neither the emergence of mass intellectual movements  nor the spread of axial age ideas would have been possible.

growth of markets played a role too, not only helping to free people from the proverbial shackles of status or community, but encouraging a certain habit of rational calculation, of measuring inputs and outputs, means and ends.. – rationality ness

last two adds – like ed reform et al.. seeming to free up.. but only binding more.. by the subtlety of its verbiage.. by the blinders of following others, ie: not listening to own heart

previously used math… mainly by architects and engineers, but which, with the rise of markets, everyone who didn’t want to get cheated at the marketplace had to learn how to do this.

just in case ness… see. that.

then talking of – a strategic move designed to ensure loyalty… speculating on such matters is a major form of daily entertainment.

resonating with – judging motives being our downfall.. again – not listening to own heart

..where the value of an IOU was as much dependent on assessments of its issuer’s character as on his disposable income, and motives of love, envy, pride, etc., could never be completely set aside.

on badges.. proof.. credentials.. how we start not living what we can be.. and instead.. what we think others want us to be.. supposed to ness…

The result, during the Axial Age, was a new way of thinking about human motivation, a radical simplification of motives that made it possible to begin speaking of concepts like “profit” and “advantage”—and imagining that this is what people are really pursuing, in every aspect of existence, as if the violence of war or the impersonality of the marketplace has simply allowed them to drop the pretense that they ever cared about anything else. It was this, in turn, that allowed human life to seem like it could be reduced to a matter of means-to-end calculation, and hence something that could be examined using the same means that one used to study the attraction and repulsion of celestial bodies.

confucius’s time, chinese thinkers were speaking of the pursuit of profit as the driving force in human life.

seth – on art/working for profit is not human

ch 10: the middle ages (600ad-1450ad)

Artificial wealth comprises the things which of themselves satisfy no natural need, for example money, which is a human contrivance. —St. Thomas Aquinas

As kingdoms continued to rise and fall, the world inhabited by kings and princes became increasingly distant from that of most people’s everyday affairs.

1000ad – islam appeared in india – a religion dedicated to eradicating usury (taking interest) altogether.

Apparently, this increasing distance allowed local Brahmins to begin reshaping the new—increasingly rural—society along strictly hierarchical principles.

Artisans and craftsmen fleeing the decline or destruction of cities often ended up as suppliant refugees and, gradually, low-caste clients.

Politically, it is never a particularly good idea to first tell people they are your equals, and then humiliate and degrade them.

The two great threats to the authorities were always the same: the nomadic peoples to the north (who they systematically bribed, but who nonetheless periodically swept over and conquered sections of China) and popular unrest and rebellion. The latter was almost constant, and on a scale unknown anywhere else in human history. There were decades in Chinese history when the rate of recorded peasant uprisings was roughly 1.8 per hour.

on same familiar story – peasants down on luck due to natural disaster or need to pay for funeral – fall into hands of predatory lenders… who seize their fields/houses… forcing them to wrk or pay rent in what had once been their own lands; the threat of rebellion would then drive the govt to institute a dramatic program of reforms.

With all those things that we treat as eternal, that we assume will always be there—our mother’s love, true friendship, sociality, humanity, belonging, the existence of the cosmos—no calculation is necessary, or even ultimately possible; insofar as there is give and take, they follow completely different principles.

lively debate on wondering if reputation.. like land, labor, money, or other resources, itself be considered a form of capital.. – algeria (bourdieu)- quite possible to turn honor into money.. almost impossible to turn money into honor

malacca – on preference to seal transactions with a handshake and a glance at heaven…

value only maintained by constant motion – on money

aristotle – money a social convention, ie: whatever human beings decided that it was

Usury, he observes, must be considered a form of violent robbery, even murder – de Tobia

heady debate in uni – not if usury is sinful and illegal, but precisely why.. not only challenging commerce but questioning the very legitimacy of private property

roman law – began from assumption of absolute private property

on knightly adventure…becoming erroneously popular

knights – originally been a term for freelance warriors,… unable to inherit, forced to band together to seek their fortunes.. gangs… thugs…  so dangerous to merchants

jousting fights – means to gain control.. pit knights against each other.. turning their entire existence into a kind of stylized game – culminating in 12th cent

if axial age was age of materialism, middle ages .. age of transcendence..

The common feature seems to be a contract between two parties that begin as equal in which one agrees to become subordinate.

The striking thing about tallies is that even though they might begin as simple tokens of friendship and solidarity, in almost all the later examples, what the two parties actually agree to create is a relation of inequality: of debt, obligation, subordination to another’s orders.

ch 11: age of the great capitalist empires (1450-1971)

origins of modern world economy.. not in europe but in china abandoning use of paper money

forbidden to change their jobs…

Even human relations become a matter of cost-benefit calculation.

It is a structure designed to eliminate all moral imperatives but profit.

..something essential about the psychology of debt. Or, more precisely, perhaps, about the debtor who feels he has done nothing to deserve being placed in his position: the frantic urgency of having to convert everything around oneself into money, and rage and indignation at having been reduced to the sort of person who would do so.

But why “interest”? Why make a general theory of human motivation out of a word that originally meant “penalty for late payment on a loan.

Part of the term’s appeal was that it derived from bookkeeping. It was mathematical. This made it seem objective, even scientific.

“Just as the physical world is ruled by the laws of movement,” wrote Helvétius, in a passage reminiscent of Lord Shang, “no less is the moral universe ruled by laws of interest.”57 And, of course, it was on this assumption that all the quadratic equations of economic theory could ultimately be built.58 The problem is that the origin of the concept is not rational at all.

The story of the origins of capitalism, then, is not the story of the gradual destruction of traditional communities by the impersonal power of the market. It is, rather, the story of how an economy of credit was converted into an economy of interest; of the gradual transformation of moral networks by the intrusion of the impersonal—and often vindictive—power of the state.

The legalization of interest began to change the nature of the playing field. In the 1580s, when interest-bearing loans began to become common between villagers, creditors also began to insist on the use of signed, legal bonds; this led to such an explosion of appeals to the courts that in many small towns, almost every household seemed to be caught up in debt litigation of some sort or other.

..as a result, the fear of debtor’s prison—or worse—came to hang over everyone, and sociability itself came to take on the color of crime.

The criminalization of debt, then, was the criminalization of the very basis of human society.

paper money in china. … bank of england 1694 – genuine paper money. not bonds. kings war debts – ie: debt not owing to king but king owing.. .. decided to recalibrate money.. make it have same value as before… disastrous…

The reforms proceeded top-down, and very slowly, but they did proceed, and they gradually came to create the world where even ordinary, everyday transactions with butchers and bakers were carried out in polite, impersonal terms, with small change, and therefore it became possible to imagine everyday life itself as a matter of self-interested calculation.

the new age came to be increasingly uncomfortable with the political nature of money. Politics, after all, is the art of persuasion; the political is that dimension of social life in which things really do become true if enough people believe them. The problem is that in order to play the game effectively, one can never acknowledge this..

If one does not believe in the king, then the money vanishes with him.

The moment that greed was validated and unlimited profit was considered a perfectly viable end in itself, this political, magical element became a genuine problem, because it meant that even those actors—the brokers, stock-jobbers, traders—who effectively made the system run had no convincing loyalty to anything, even to the system itself.

What was once an impersonal mechanism that compelled people to look at everything around them as a potential source of profit has come to be considered the only objective measure of the health of the human community itself.

Paper money was debt money, and debt money was war money, and this has always remained the case.

in reality, then, the indians had been reduced to slavery; its’ just that, by 1907, no one could openly admit this.

It is the secret scandal of capitalism that at no point has it been organized primarily around free labor.

This is a scandal not just because the system occasionally goes haywire, as it did in the Putumayo, but because it plays havoc with our most cherished assumptions about what capitalism really is—particularly that, in its basic nature, capitalism has something to do with freedom.

..because both the relation between master and slave, and between employer and employee, are in principle impersonal: whether you’ve been sold or you’re simply rented yourself out, the moment money changes hands, who you are is supposed to be unimportant; all that’s important is that you are capable of understanding orders and doing what you’re told.

Samuel Bentham, the engineer put in charge of reforming the dockyards, had to turn them into a regular police state in order to be able to institute a regime of pure wage labor—to which purpose he ultimately conceived the notion of building a giant tower in the middle to guarantee constant surveillance, an idea that was later borrowed by his brother Jeremy for the famous Panopticon.

men like smith and benthan were idealists, even utopians.

? – based on science of people ness then.. no? ie: won’t work unless forced… surveilled..

smith’s work is so important.. he created the vision of an imaginary world almost entirely free of debt and credit, and therefore, free of guilt and sin; … knowing prearranged by god.. marx: even if we start with economists’ utopian vision … as long as we also allow some people to control productive capital …and leave others with nothing to sell but their brains and bodies.. (?) – marx knowing that not everyone was factory worker.. but if they got this to work — system would fall apart. david saying.. it would never work (ie: it’s the system)

on economists’ assumptions.. being embraced by leaders of workers’ movements.. so much so that they have come to shape our visions of what alternatives to capitalism might be like.

national debt – money borrowed from future generations

ch 12: the beginning of something yet to be determined (1971-present)

Free your mind of the idea of deserving, of the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think. —Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed

nixon – paper money no longer linked to gold – 71… from 41. vaults under twin towers.. actually two blocks away…  – on being able to steal gold.. transfer of gold once new tally is made

..as an anthropologist, I cannot help but see this confused play of symbols as important in and of itself, even, of playing a crucial role in maintaining the forms of power it claims to represent. In part, these systems work because no one knows how they really work.

reading ch 12 and James‘ words may 2015 – at same time.. all of us. need to wake up.

..since Nixon’s floating of the dollar, it has become evident that it’s only the wizard behind the screen who seems to be maintaining the viability of the whole arrangement.

One element, however, tends to go flagrantly missing in even the most vivid conspiracy theories about the banking system, let alone in official accounts: that is, the role of war and military power. There’s a reason why the wizard has such a strange capacity to create money out of nothing. Behind him, there’s a man with a gun.

..modern money is based on government debt, and that governments borrow money in order to finance wars.

Nixon floated the dollar in order to pay for the cost of a war in which, during the period of 1970–1972 alone, he ordered more than four million tons of explosives and incendiaries dropped on cities and villages across Indochina—causing one senator to dub him “the greatest bomber of all time.

(Henry Ford once remarked that if ordinary Americans ever found out how the banking system really worked, there would be a revolution tomorrow.)

alan watts ness

..the U.S. debt remains, as it has been since 1790, a war debt: the United States continues to spend more on its military than do all other nations on earth put together,..

The U.S. military, unlike any other, maintains a doctrine of global power projection: that it should have the ability, through roughly 800 overseas military bases, to intervene with deadly force absolutely anywhere on the planet. In a way, though, land forces are secondary; at least since World War II, (45) the key to U.S. military doctrine has always been a reliance on air power.


The essence of U.S. military predominance in the world is, ultimately, the fact that it can, at will, with only a few hours’ notice, drop bombs at absolutely any point on the surface of the planet.13 No other government has ever had anything remotely like this sort of capability. In fact, a case could well be made that it is this very cosmic power that holds the entire world monetary system, organized around the dollar, together.

it’s a form of power that works largely insofar as it remains symbolic.

When Saddam Hussein made the bold move of singlehandedly switching from the dollar to the euro in 2000, followed by Iran in 2001, this was quickly followed by American bombing and military occupation.

Much though their beneficiaries do not like to admit it, all imperial arrangements do, ultimately, rest on terror.

.. they have not been created to protect debtors, but to enforce the rights of creditors. the international monetary fund is only the most dramatic case in point here.

Subsequent U.S. military adventures were clearly meant to reestablish the nation’s symbolic, cosmological power—that is, to terrify and overawe (it didn’t really matter whom)

chinese empire – … adopted a peculiar sort of tribute system.. in exchange for recognition of the chinese emperor as world sovereign, they have been willing to shower their client states with gifts…

money has no essence. It’s not “really” anything; therefore, its nature has always been and presumably always will be a matter of political contention

.. end of ww2 – a version of the chinese client state ness:

To put it crudely: the white working class of the North Atlantic countries, from the United States to West Germany, were offered a deal. If they agreed to set aside any fantasies of fundamentally changing the nature of the system, then they would be allowed to keep their unions, enjoy a wide variety of social benefits (pensions, vacations, health care …), and, perhaps most important, through generously funded and ever-expanding public educational institutions, know that their children had a reasonable chance of leaving the working class entirely.

in 1980, U.S. federal usury laws, which had previously limited interest to between 7 and 10 percent, were eliminated by act of Congress. Just as the United States had managed to largely get rid of the problem of political corruption by making the bribery of legislators effectively legal (it was redefined as “lobbying”), so the problem of loan-sharking was brushed aside by making real interest rates of 25 percent, 50 percent, or even in some cases (for instance, for payday loans) up to 6,000 percent annually, the sort of numbers that would once have made the mafia blush, perfectly legal—and therefore, enforceable no longer by just hired goons and the sort of people who place mutilated animals on their victims’ doorsteps, but by judges, lawyers, bailiffs, and police.

capitalism cannot really operate in a world where people believe it will be around forever..

we’ve hit the wall in our collective imagination.

Finance capital became the buying and selling of chunks of that future, and economic freedom, for most of us, was reduced to the right to buy a small piece of one’s own permanent subordination.

over last 5000 yrs.. at least 2 occasions when major dramatic moral and financial innovations have emerged from the country we now refer to as iraq… odd to most.. since most americans are used to thinking of iraqis either as victims or fanatics (this is how occupying powers always think about the people they occupy)

The one thing we can be confident of is that history is not over, and that wherever the most exciting new ideas of the next century come from, it will almost certainly be from someplace we don’t expect.

The main reason that we’re unable to notice, I think, is that the legacy of violence has twisted everything around us. It’s not just that war, conquest, and slavery played such a central role in converting human economies into market ones; there is literally no institution in our society that has not been to some degree affected.

Calculation demands equivalence. And such equivalence—especially when it involves equivalence between human beings (and it always seems to start that way, because at first, human beings are always the ultimate values)—only seems to occur when people have been forcibly severed from their contexts, so much so that they can be treated as identical to something else,

Any system that reduces the world to numbers can only be held in place by weapons, whether these are swords and clubs, or, nowadays, “smart bombs” from unmanned drones.

such is the state of the conversation in mainstream literature.. it has consistently encouraged us to ask the wrong questions.

real question – how to ratchet things down a bit.. toward a society where people can live more by working less.

..all these things are human arrangements and that if democracy is to mean anything, it is the ability to all agree to arrange things in a different way.

indeed – a nother way. dependent upon alive people. every day. as the day.

debt – perversion of a promise.. a promise corrupted by both math and violence

when one is in the middle of dramatic historical events that seem to represent some kind of break, the most important thing one has to do is to get a sense of the larger rhythmic structure.

deep simple open enough

Even though he never conducted fieldwork and never even wrote a proper book (he died surrounded by unfinished writing projects), the stream of occasional essays that he did produce was incredibly influential—just about every one of them has inspired a whole body of subsequent literature. Mauss had an extraordinary knack for asking the most interesting questions. (wrote the gift)

that was his unfrozen book.. no? toward output ness..

.. if we are going to create a world that does not threaten to wipe out humanity every generation or so, this is exactly the scale on which we’re going to have to start reimagining things. And in the process, many of our most cherished assumptions—about the value of work, for instance, or the virtue of paying debts—are likely to be stood on their heads.

systemic – making most of today’s tech irrelevant..

– –

from notes (at end of book) – weaving back & forth

from ch 3

According to the Populist reading, the Wicked Witches of the East and West represent the East and West Coast bankers (promoters of and benefactors from the tight money supply), the Scarecrow represented the farmers (who didn’t have the brains to avoid the debt trap), the Tin Woodsman was the industrial proletariat (who didn’t have the heart to act in solidarity with the farmers), the Cowardly Lion represented the political class (who didn’t have the courage to intervene).

Anthropologists have been complaining about the Myth of Barter for almost a century. Occasionally, economists point out with slight exasperation that there’s a fairly simple reason why they’re still telling the same story despite all the evidence against it: anthropologists have never come up with a better one.21 This is an understandable objection, but there’s a simple answer to it. The reasons why anthropologists haven’t been able to come up with a simple, compelling story for the origins of money is because there’s no reason to believe there could be one. Money was no more ever “invented” than music or mathematics or jewelry. What we call “money” isn’t a “thing” at all; it’s a way of comparing things mathematically, as proportions:

L. Frank Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which appeared in 1900, is often held to be a parable for the Populist campaign of William Jennings Bryan, who twice ran for president on the Free Silver platform—vowing to replace the gold standard with a bimetallic system that would allow the free creation of silver money alongside gold.

“Oz” is of course the standard abbreviation for “

From roughly 1933 to 1979, every major capitalist government reversed course and adopted some version of Keynesianism. Keynesian orthodoxy started from the assumption that capitalist markets would not really work unless capitalist governments were willing effectively to play nanny: most famously, by engaging in massive deficit “pump-priming” during downturns.

They only became ruby slippers in the movie.

..the book developed this reputation at some point, so it’s really just a question of whether Baum created the myth or others did.

making me wonder why i like foreign money so much.. esp since.. when in the place.. fear of rip off ness.

also.. (from ch 3 – esp footnote 35 – where in brahman ism and et al.. the ultimate payment in debt – suicide – so you can start again).. so debt=suicide. and equation. wondering about love for solving equations.. equaling up the sides.. and thinking about perhaps.. equity being us approaching the limit of ginormously small ness. ie: 7 billion ish people = 7 billionish goes everyday .. ish.  ness.

the need for everyday do over ness.. at the very least.

from ch 5

in anthropology – first to propose reciprocity as a universal principle – Richard Thurnwald 1916.. but made famous by Malinowski 1922

The author then proceeds to explore the nature of our sense of economic morality by comparing the behavior of caged apes with middle-class Canadian children so as to argue that all human relations are indeed either exchange or forcible appropriation (ibid:49). Despite the brilliance of many of its arguments, the result is a rather sad testimony to how difficult it is for the scions of the North Atlantic professional classes not to see their own characteristic ways of imagining the world as simple human nature.

science of people ness

on Marx only using slogan… for the principle he imagined could apply on the level of society as a whole once technology had reached the point of guarenteeing absolute material abundance…  – peter kropotkin’s mutual aid

marshal sahlins 1972 – generalized reciprocity.. everything balances out freely. marcel mauss.. 1947 – alternating reciprocity.. ie: we repay parents by having children

The obvious question is: If we are all ordinarily moving back and forth between completely different systems of moral accounting, why hasn’t anybody noticed this? Why, instead, do we continually feel the need to reframe everything in terms of reciprocity? Here we must return to the fact that reciprocity is our main way of imagining justice

from ch 6:

their ultimate value is individualism, and since each individual is valuable above all for the degree to which he or she is unique, there can be no basis for saying that anyone is intrinsically superior to anybody else. One can have the same effect without any doctrine of “Western individualism” at all. The entire concept of “individualism” needs to be seriously rethought.

networked individualism.. re\wire ness

from ch 7

attempts to justify slavery don’t focus on the institution but on some inferiority of those enslaved

from ch 9

interesting to note – great trading nations didn’t produce much in terms of art and philosophy

ch 10

great deal of enlightenment thought traces back to islamic philosophy

on monasteries ending up with land from defaulting debtors.. fitting with Michel – writing pope for empty monasteries for maker spaces.. et al


“these are the ways in which we re-articulate, symbolically, how we want that to look & who is allowed in” @qui_oui  https://t.co/7EAI1lQwd2

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/bonstewart/status/606091822209892352




audio? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItI4pXX5E14

7 min – if a bank were guaranteed to get its money back no matter what it did – the whole system would fall

10 min – loan from citibank.. and 10000 deaths in madagascar

37 min- the intimate link of violence and quantification

50 min – reduce all human relations to exchange

52 min – ch 2 – myth of barter

57 min – agreed upon exchange negates reason for double coincidence of wants

1:40 – money created by bureaucrats – to keep track

1:45 – the story of barter wrong.. actually more in the reverse: first – virtual money came first, coins much later, barter – accidental exchange for money

1:45 – ch 3 – primordial debts

2:13 – what we call money isn’t a thing at all

2:15 – oz

2:44 – everything of us is because of others… there is no way to repay that. imagining repaying a debt to your parents seems odd. do we really want to be a people that owes others.

3:02 – perhaps best to say – we all owe a debt to the universe (or whatever) but no one can tell the individual how to repay it.. individual free to determine that.. as far as i know – noone has followed that thinking

3:04 – all these ideas, that there is a society (nationality), that we owe a debt, …. all from primordial debt peoples…

3:10 – on market (born with zero balance) vs state (begin with debt) – not separate as many say – as state created market and market depends on state

ch 4 – cruelty and redemption

3:22 – german word for debt and guilt are the same – schuld

3:29 – on a people that don’t believe in saying thank you  –

being truly human means refusing to measure


ch 5 – brief treatise on the moral grounds of economic relations

3:58 – on our basic assumptions.. ie: economic system; reciprocity; if so .. then debt.

4 :06 – defining communism as – from each according to their abilities to each according to their needs

ended like mid sentence4:40ish

– – – –

notes/highlights (from reading what’s available on amazon page):

(after talking about the dishonesty and the compound interest ridiculousness – ie: debts had already been paid back 3 or 4 times)….but there was a more basic problem: the assumption that debts have to be repaid


for several days afterward, that phrase kept resonating in my head. “surely on has to pay one’s debts.”…. the reason it’s so powerful is that ti’s not actually an economic statement: it’s a moral statement.


the very fact that we don’t know what debt is, the very flexibility of the concept, is the basis of its power. if history shows anything, it is that there’s o better way to justify relations founded on violence, to make such relations seem moral, than by reframing them in the language of debt – above all, because it immediately makes it seem that it’s the victim who’s doing something wrong…… for thousands of years, violent men have been able to tell their victims that those victims owe them something. if nothing else, they”owe them their lives” (a telling phrase) because they haven’t been killed.

nowadays, for example, military aggression is defined as a crime against humanity, and international courts, when they are brought to bear, usually demand that aggressors pay compensation…… yet…. third world debtor nations are almost exclusively countries that have at one time been attacked and conquered… often the very countries to whom they now owe money.


but debt is not just victor’s justice; it can also be a way of punishing winners who weren’t supposed to win. the most spectacular example of this is the history of the republic of haiti – the first poor country to be placed in permanent debt peonage. haiti was a nation founded by former plantation slaves who had the temerity not only to rise up in rebellion, amidst grand declarations of universal rights and freedoms, but to defeat Napoleon’s armies sent to return them to bondage. france immediately insisted that the new republic owed it 150 million francs in damages for the expropriated plantations,…..the sum was intentionally impossible … and the resultant embargo ensured that the name”haiti” has been a synonym for debt, poverty, and human misery every since.


so what is the status of all this money continually being funneled into the us treasury? are these loans? or is it tribute? in the past, military powers that maintained hundreds of military bases outside their own home territory were ordinarily referred to as”empires,” and empires regularly demanded tribute from subject peoples. the us govt, of course insists that it is not an empire – but one could easily make a case that the only reason it insists on treating these payments as “loans” and not as “tribute” is precisely to deny the reality of what’s going on.


arguments about debt have been going on for at least 5000 yrs. for most of human history, at least, the history of states and empires – most human beings have been told that they are debtors.


as the great classicist Moses Finley often liked to say, in the ancient world, all revolutionary movements had a single program: “cancel the debts and redistribute the land.”


arguments about who really owes what to whom have played a central role in shaping our basic vocabulary of right and wrong. the fact that so much of this language did take shape in arguments about debt has left the concept strangely incoherent. after all, to argue with the king, one has to use the king’s language whether or not the initial premises make sense.


most money spent on wedding/funeral – which had to be borrowed. ie: bride was security of loan. so after wedding night.. became ruler’s concubine for a couple months till he got board.. then off to nearby timber camp – for 1-2 years as prostitute to work off father’s debt. then return to husband (paraphrase)… this seems shocking, outrageous even, but Galey does not report any widespread feeling of injustice. everyone seemed to feel that this was just the way things worked.

pluralistic ignorance

here we come to the central question of this book: what, precisely, does it mean to say that our sense of morality and justice is reduced to the language of a business deal?…. how do we speak about them (debts/obligations) when our language has been so shaped by the market?

.. money’s capacity to turn morality into a matter of impersonal arithmetic.. to justify things that would otherwise seem outrageous or obscene.

when one looks a little closer, one discovers that these two elements – the violence and the quantification – are intimately linked.

the way violence, or threat of violence, turns human relations into mathematics will crop up again and again over the course of this book. it is the ultimate source of the moral confusion that seems to float around everything surrounding the topic of debt…. still lies underneath the essential fabric of institutions today … we’re no longer capable of even perceiving (freedom, morality, sociality) because we can no longer imagine things any other way..


there’s nothing new about virtual money. actually, this was the original form of money.


the one thing all these misconceptions have in common, we will find, is that they tend to reduce all human relations to exchange, as if our ties to society, even to the cosmos itself, can be imagined in the same terms as a business deal. this leads to another question: if not exchange, then what? in chapter five, i will begin to answer the question by drawing on the fruits of anthropology to describe a view of the moral basis of economic life; then return to the question of the origins of money to demonstrate how the very principle of exchange emerged largely as an effect of violence – that the real origins of money are to be found in crime and recompense, war and slavery, honor, debt, and redemption.


for a very long time, the intellectual consensus has been that we can no longer ask great questions. increasingly, it’s looking like we have no other choice.

– –

– –

debt via


ch 2 – In fact, our standard account of monetary history is precisely backwards. We did not begin with barter, discover money, and then eventually develop credit systems. It happened precisely the other way around.

ch 3 – In other words, the battle between state and market, between governments and merchants is not inherent to the human condition.

ch 4 – To tell the history of debt, then, is also necessarily to reconstruct how the language of the marketplace has come to pervade every aspect of human life—even to provide the terminology for the moral and religious voices ostensibly raised against it.

One might even say that it’s one of the scandals of capitalism that most capitalist firms, internally, operate communistically.

ch 5 – In fact, communism is the foundation of all human sociability. It is what makes society possible.

exchange is about equivalence.

If we insist on defining all human interactions as matters of people giving one thing for another, then any ongoing human relations can only take the form of debts.

ch 11 – We could no more have a universal world market than we could have a system in which everyone who wasn’t a capitalist was somehow able to to become a respectable, regularly paid wage laborer with access to adequate dental care. A world like that has never existed and never could exist. What’s more, the moment that even the prospect that this might happen begins to materialize, the whole system starts to come apart.

so does that mean you don’t see a money\less world..?

ch 12 – By the end of World War II, .. working class uprising .. had largely disappeared. This was because class war was suspended by a tacit settlement. To put it crudely: the white working class of the North Atlantic countries, from the United States to West Germany, were offered a deal. If they agreed to set aside any fantasies of fundamentally changing the nature of the system, then they would be allowed to keep their unions, enjoy a wide variety of social benefits (pensions, vacations, health care …), and, perhaps most important, .. know that their children had a reasonable chance of leaving the working class entirely.

What is a debt, anyway? A debt is just the perversion of a promise. It is a promise corrupted by both math and violence.



Charlie Rose – A Conversation With Anarchist David Graeber

protesting – asking for the powers that be to change

6 min – anarchism – acting as if you are already free, democracy w/o the govt. longer version: commitment to the idea that it would be possible to have a society based on principle: self-organization, voluntary association and mutual aide.

8 min – process is a good word for anarchism..  doing it in other ways shows what’s possible..  opposed to international borders

15 min – why it’s so important to put anarchy on our radar – because it means to re imagine the way we do things..  – when asked to speculate – d says – i think we have no idea. we can’t guess. but we can try to create positive examples of alternatives..


Published on Feb 5, 2014

David Graeber from the London School of Economics giving his keynote speech “Anthropology and the rise of the professional managerial class” in the anthropological Knots Symposium. Discussant: Jane Cowan, University of Sussex. Helsinki 15th of January 2014.

how people have come to imagine their class positions

if you think basic political structures are there for you (ie: police) – you are middle class

a couple weeks ago – cops off campus demo – people 2 blocks away – had no idea what was going on – marketization of uni and police tactics..

7 min – there’s a sense that democracy is seen as following these institutional rules – so anyone proceeding outside those rules is seen as violating just for that reason..even if rules are inexplicably set up.. ie: student banned by police from organizing protesting because he hadn’t asked for permission to do a march. the most anti-democratic stuff possible but if it’s legally constituted.. can’t see anything the police do as violated..

the interesting question is how anthropology gets into this

madagascar – knot in your hair vs string around finger – figuring things out by talking to people you might not normally talk to .. solving through talking to others

16 min – acting as if we are already free, ie: we ought to be having a lot more fun.. seeing that sense of play

18 min – peace with yourself that comes with having privilege your entire life

19 min – what would it take to restore that sense of people with ourselves…

21 min – our world is not the only way – how might we reimagine another world.. from one of David’s books


mar 2014:

money is just an iou and banks are rolling in it


What this means is that the real limit on the amount of money in circulation is not how much the central bank is willing to lend, but how much government, firms, and ordinary citizens, are willing to borrow.


Just consider what might happen if mortgage holders realised the money the bank lent them is not, really, the life savings of some thrifty pensioner, but something the bank just whisked into existence through its possession of a magic wand which we, the public, handed over to it.


oct 2014

tweeted during a convo after his short cross-talk with Piketty (mistalk about slavery et al):

money is created by making loans: bankofengland.co.uk/publications/D…

oct 2014
on occupy democracy:


Basic Income and Innovation


Published on Dec 1, 2014

Excerpts from TheBaffer.com’s “Where did the Future Go?” – a discussion with David Graeber and Peter Thiel. This video is a compilation of Basic Income related sentiments from David Graeber expressed during this conversation

any functional society has something to do with brilliant, imaginative, but extremely impractical people.. we don’t know what to do with them anymore.. we used to put them in academia – but not academia is all about self- marketing

to max unexpected breakthroughs: get a bunch of people – give them resources they need.. leave them alone… most will end up with nothing, but a few will come up with something that will even surprise themselves

to min unexpected breakthroughs: take same people – tell them they won’t get any resources at all unless they spend the majority of their time competing with one another to prove to you that they already know what they’re going to create..

graeber min\max law

luxury ness

one thing not scarce

one thing not scarce in the world, is imaginative people with possible solutions to intractable problems.

majority of these people are being told everyday to shut up..

if one could unleash that creativity – i think a lot of those things we think of as problems would seem ridiculous..

exactly. set people free for a year.. let’s just see.. no?

music in england has slowed – because ran out of money..

basic income would leave it up to people on the broad scale – would be a much more effective in creating the conditions where all of us want to see this happen. ..at the moment the system we have is very much about tying people down..

you have to guarantee that people aren’t debt slaves.. before they are going to be free to form those voluntary associations…

full hour video:

Where Did the Future Go?
David Graeber vs. Peter Thiel

happened sept 2014


what happened to the second half of the 20th century

not just the bureaucratization of research – but a shift in the nature of b in the 70s… a corperatization of b..

8 min – min/max stuff

10 min – Peter – heavy on bits low on atoms… we could be doing so much more – like 40 yrs of stagnation – more than – why did this happen – what should be done now

what does it mean to be an anarchist – start thinking as if you are already free

starting paypal – didn’t hire any lawyers for first year because we knew they would tell us we couldn’t do it.. broke alot of rules.. in order to do..

i think – convincing a small # of people that a future could look really different – rather than trying to get a collective move.

we’re not going to get to mars by having endless debates.. an urgency to solving these problems.. not willing to wait for some mass movement.. just want to get going on it right now

how mars?

end of Peter

a cultural revolution w/o a social revolution

16 min – back to David – you don’t need to change people’s minds.. you change people’s minds by doing something..

20 min – – culture of stagnation a result of a culture of power

2o min – Peter – the people nimble in the art of writing for grants are displacing the idiosyncratic thinkers.. so screwed up b… so where should we be applying our energies.. i used to believe – all sorts of lobbying for internal change.. i concluded much more effective encouraging people to leave.. yes there are problems… but they are not where i want to put the focus of change…

22 min – David – to what degree can you work inside existing institutions… central question – what are most people going to do

24 min – Peter – where i disagree – is i get the sense that your idea is always a bigger thing – that will be more complicated in the long run – i think that is always what’s being underestimated

26 min – David – people don’t mostly understand is decentralization

Peter – things i like about that politically, but i’d like get back to the tech.. could you get people to the moon with a radically decentralized chaotic system

David – not exactly chaotic.. frankly.. creating very large scale is that hard. it’s really hard to create tiny structures. i totally agree on doing things now.

Peter – i’m not aware of any tech start up or research project that came about in this style. (radically decentralized) .. i think one’s that work are hierarchical.. start up is really far from democracy – people don’t get to vote on them

David – problem is we grow up being told we are in a democratic society.. a problem both of us.. it remains true that govt is source of most basic research (56%) corporate (16%), rest is unis and non profit. so start up is a nice model for certain things.. but i don’t think we have to assume that’s the only way for break throughs..

Peter – i think there’s very much broken in our society.. i can’t imagine a straight forward way to change these things from within. how do we get to mars? change the nasa funding.. very hard to do.

David – determination – nasa did pretty well getting to the moon. i agree it would be great to have somebody working on these things. but i also like to see a society where everyone is working on it. there has to be somebody who has an idea that neither one of us have thought of. the problem is those people are being told to shut up.. if we could unleash that..

32 min – David – there’s people out there that could solve these problems.. but they’re sitting around trying to figure out how to pay their bills..

or sitting at school.. or… imagine if we just tried something different.

33 min – Peter – all you have to do is go out the front door. i want to push back on the idea that people could do more. there are a lot of ways for people to do things. we’re not going to start by changing b at nasa or govt

35 min – Peter – i would define myself as a political atheist

David – so many know that so much are based on false premises

Peter – i’ll disagree with the money… i do think there is such a thing as an economy .. there is such a thing as scarcity – so you have a very complicated way of allocating things.. and it’s true we could print money – that’s not a solution to scarcity. when you print more money you don’t understand the underlying nature of the real goods.. i think the real problem is the problem of scarcity.. we need all sorts of new tech to enable that to happen. economics was the science of how to economize

David – i’m not saying we should print money – i’m saying we should ask what it means. money isn’t just measuring the value of stuff, it’s measuring action value.. creativity value…

39 min – David – basic income – leave it up to people – to create the conditions that both of us want to see happen.  people think of ed not as creative expression.. but as a means to job.

Peter – scarcity is a major problem

42 min – David – if we don’t consciously act in ways to not reinforce the system.. we actually reinforce it. it’s great that there are pockets of people

Peter – i don’t think this is the most constructive thing to be doing. (the larger picture)

David – this is still largely in the financial sector

Peter – google has displaced goldman sacs.. there are problems in silicon .. but i think it’s the place that is mostly trying to do things..

David – is silicon valley actually posing a solution to that larger structure

Peter – no – but i would argue again.. we’re not going to change the structures.. a lot of things look like they are too small initially… in politics you have to convince too many people..

David –

Peter – i think there are huge problems to solve – spacex – and military


Peter – all the mass movements… didn’t get us to where we want.. there’s something to be said to figure out ways to stop another attack. there was no tech to stop terrorism in 2001

– –

both and – with networked individualism…  art ist ic stigmergy

and.. i think i found your flying cars… in broken feedback loop


[i wish the library had these books.. or i could grab a copy somewhere/how – i’ve recommended democracy project and 5000 yr debt]

from the democracy project (2013):


there’s nothing that scares the rulers of america more than the prospect of democracy breaking out

wondering what else we assume cannot really happen actually can

– – – –

fragments of an anarchist anthropology (2004)


Everywhere anarchism is on the upswing as a political philosophy—everywhere, that is, except the academy. Anarchists repeatedly appeal to anthropologists for ideas about how society might be reorganized on a more egalitarian, less alienating basis. Anthropologists, terrified of being accused of romanticism, respond with silence . . . . But what if they didn’t?

This pamphlet ponders what that response would be, and explores the implications of linking anthropology to anarchism. Here, David Graeber invites readers to imagine this discipline that currently only exists in the realm of possibility: anarchist anthropology.

– – –


via (on David’s new book):


in this book, he takes on the topic of bureaucracy, arguing that what we think of as the root of our civilzation — capitalism, technology, rules and regulations — may just be what’s keeping us in chains.

comes out feb 24 2015

the utopia of rules

book links to amazon

– – – – –

npr review:


He denies “the fiction that rules and regulations apply to everyone equally” and sees the various elements of bureaucracy as “instruments through which the human imagination is smashed and shattered.”

Utopia of Rules, then, sets about convincing readers that the world is quite different from how they normally see it, and that there’s an urgent need for change.


.. a book that discusses things like “the very grounds of political being” and the need for “general theory of interpretative labor.”

Hannah Arendt ness – the promise of politics

(he’s been credited with coining the phrase “we are the 99%”). That ideological stance underlies Utopia of Rules‘s political project: To wake the left from its slumber and remind it of its anti-bureaucratic origins, and to explore how (or if) people can upend governments without erecting more labyrinthine structures in their place.

– – – – –


(have on library request/recommend)

intro – from amazon site…

… while the less fortunate spent ever more hours of their day trying to jump through the increasingly elaborate hoops required to gain access to dwindling social services. (on the exponentiation of paperwork)

the vast majority of the paperwork we do exists in just this sort of in-between zone – ostensibly private, but in fact entirely shaped by a government that provides the legal framework, ..

in cases like this the language we employ- derived as it is from the right-wing critique – is completely inadequate. it tells us nothing about what is actually going on….. ie: deregulation…..pointing out that it was an orgy of this very deregulation that led to the banking crisis of 2008 – seems to imply a desire for more rules and regulations,

but this debate is based on false premises. … ie: there’s no such thing as an unregulated bank.

one result of all this debt is to render the government itself the main mechanism for the extraction of corporate profits. (just think, here, of what happens if one tries to default on one’s student loans: the entire legal apparatus leaps into action, threatening to seize assets, garnish wages, and apply thousands of dollars in additional penalties.)

what was being talked about in terms of free trade and the free market really entailed the self-conscious completion of the world’s first effective planetary-scale administrative bureaucratic system.

the bureaucratization of daily life means the imposition of impersonal rules and regulations; impersonal rules and regulations, in turn, can only operate if they are backed up by the threat of force.


what this suggests is that people, everywhere, are prone to two completely contradictory tendencies: on the one hand, a tendency to be playfully creative just for the sake of it; on the other, a tendency to agree with anyone who tells them that they really shouldn’t act that way. this latter is what makes the game-ification of institutional life possible. because if you take the later tendency to its logical conclusions, all freedom becomes arbitrariness, and all arbitrariness, a form of dangerous, subversive power. it is just one further step to argue that true freedom is to live in an utterly predictable world that is free from freedom of this sort.


couldn’t wait – bought it.. my notes/tweets from kindle:

utopia of rules

bureaucracy has become the water in which we swim.

Historically, markets are generally either a side effect of government operations, especially military operations, or were directly created by government policy.

re mark et able ness

..the invention of coinage, which was first created and promulgated as a means of provisioning soldiers;

Modern central banking systems were likewise first created to finance wars.

“Democracy” thus came to mean the market; “bureaucracy,” in turn, government interference with the market; and this is pretty much what the word continues to mean to this day.

neither the German or American regimes had ever been especially interested in free trade. The Americans in particular were much more concerned with creating structures of international administration.

As one anthropologist, Sarah Kendzior, puts it: “The United States has become the most rigidly credentialised society in the world,” write James Engell and Anthony Dangerfield in their 2005 book Saving Higher Education in the Age of Money. “A BA is required for jobs that by no stretch of imagination need two years of full-time training, let alone four. Journalism is one of many fields of public influence—including politics—in which credentials function as de facto permission to speak, rendering those who lack them less likely to be employed and less able to afford to stay in their field. Ability is discounted without credentials, but the ability to purchase credentials rests, more often than not, on family wealth.

credentials. walls.

Almost every endeavor that used to be considered an art (best learned through doing) now requires formal professional training and a certificate of completion,

free artists, do this first

it’s precisely the children of the professional-managerial classes, those whose family resources make them the least in need of financial support, who best know how to navigate the world of paperwork that enables them to get said support.

[right about here.. i got Maria‘s post on Kafka..oh my. so added page. watched film. my.]

For everyone else, the main result of one’s years of professional training is to ensure that one is saddled with such an enormous burden of student debt that a substantial chunk of any subsequent income one will get from pursuing that profession will henceforth be siphoned off, each month, by the financial sector.

student debt

Increasingly, corporate profits in America are not derived from commerce or industry at all, but from finance—which means, ultimately, from other people’s debts.

..while this system of extraction comes dressed up in a language of rules and regulations, in its actual mode of operation, it has almost nothing to do with the rule of law. Rather, the legal system has itself become the means for a system of increasingly arbitrary extractions.

It’s not just that some people get to break the rules—it’s that loyalty to the organization is to some degree measured by one’s willingness to pretend this isn’t happening. And insofar as bureaucratic logic is extended to the society as a whole, all of us start playing along.


we would magically whisk into existence thousands of heavily armed riot police ready to reveal just what those bureaucrats were willing to unleash against anyone—no matter how nonviolent—who tried to stand in their way.

this was on talking about ie: occupies.. seattle, wall st

At the time, we didn’t talk about things in quite these terms—that “free trade” and “the free market” actually meant the creation of global administrative structures mainly aimed at ensuring the extraction of profits for investors, that “globalization” really meant bureaucratization

schooling the world ness

The bureaucratization of daily life means the imposition of impersonal rules and regulations; impersonal rules and regulations, in turn, can only operate if they are backed up by the threat of force.

cure violence.. the center of the disease

Rather than causing our current situation, the direction that technological change has taken is itself largely a function of the power of finance.

It is felt most cruelly by the poor, who are constantly monitored by an intrusive army of moralistic box-tickers assessing their child-rearing skills, inspecting their food cabinets to see if they are really cohabiting with their partners, ..All rich countries now employ legions of functionaries whose primary function is to make poor people feel bad about themselves.

Matt Taibbi‘s the divide

And like a maze, paperwork doesn’t really open on anything outside itself.

It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that Weber and Foucault’s popularity owed much to the fact that the American university system during this period had itself increasingly become an institution dedicated to producing functionaries for an imperial administrative apparatus, operating on a global scale.

all that changed with the war on vietnam… campus mobilizations against war..spotlight.. complicity ness

we (academics) assume places of power.. from places of density.. power of bureaucracy shows opposite

structural violence, by which I mean forms of pervasive social inequality that are ultimately backed up by the threat of physical harm..

..—invariably tend to create the kinds of willful blindness we normally associate with bureaucratic procedures.

system of property rights regulated and guaranteed by govt in a system that ultimately rests on the threat of force. force in turn is just a euphemistic way to refer to violence..

.. spend days in .. libraries poring over Foucault-inspired .. about the declining importance of coercion as a factor in modern life without ever reflecting on that fact that, had they insisted on their right to enter the stacks without showing a properly stamped and validated ID, armed men would have been summoned to physically remove them, using whatever force might be required.

oh my. too resonating. in too many ways.

.. all of it ultimately depends on the threat of physical harm.

We have no idea how they would act, or what they would think, if the Alphas’ command of the means of violence were to somehow disappear.

science of people in schools – (he was talking – belief as a psychological technique to accommodate self to structure of violence)

“structural violence”—structures that could only be created and maintained by the threat of violence, even if in their ordinary, day-to-day workings, no actual physical violence need take place.


It was characteristic of contexts where explanations, deliberation, and, ultimately, consent, were not required, since such contexts were shaped by the presumption of unequal access to sheer physical force.

..generations of police sociologists have pointed out that only a very small proportion of what police actually do has anything to do with enforcing criminal law—.. Most of it has to do with regulations, ..threat of physical force, to aid in the resolution of administrative problems.

Bryan Stevenson

Jim Cooper, a former LAPD officer turned sociologist,68 has observed that the overwhelming majority of those who end up getting beaten or otherwise brutalized by police turn out to be innocent of any crime. “Cops don’t beat up burglars,” he writes. The reason, he explained, is simple: the one thing most guaranteed to provoke a violent reaction from police is a challenge to their right to, as he puts it, “define the situation.

…the powerless not only end up doing most of the actual, physical labor required to keep society running, they also do most of the interpretive labor as well.

i know you ness – listening in – single story

Why do movements challenging such structures so often end up creating bureaucracies instead? Normally, they do so as a kind of compromise. One must be realistic and not demand too much.

raised eyebrow.. partial freedom is no freedom..100% ness – something we haven’t yet tried.

Being “realistic” usually means taking seriously the effects of the systematic threat of violence.

This is the ultimate revolutionary question: what are the conditions that would have to exist to enable us to do this—to just wake up and imagine and produce something else?

a nother way – where there’s a mechanism in place to handle the initial chaos.. to shorten the lag time.. between intention and action.. so we don’t fall back into the “comfort/laziness” of bureaucracy/rules/supposed-to‘s. getting the sync of luxury for all.

… revolution is the actual immanent practice of the proletariat, which will ultimately bear fruit in ways that we cannot possibly imagine from our current vantage point.

and so .. we’re missing it. (this was from marx)

.. structural inequalities always create what I’ve called “lopsided structures of imagination,” that is, divisions between one class of people who end up doing most of the imaginative labor, and others who do not.

like Tim said of the web.. it doesn’t work unless the whole world is on it..

.. bureaucratic procedures, which have an uncanny ability to make even the smartest people act like idiots, are not so much forms of stupidity in themselves, as they are ways of managing situations already stupid because of the effects of structural violence.

getting to the root matters.. otherwise.. we’re spinning our wheels.. good by cycle.

stupidity in the name of fairness and decency is still stupidity, and violence in the name of human liberation is still violence.

Putting yourself in new situations constantly is the only way to ensure that you make your decisions unencumbered by the inertia of habit, custom, law, or prejudice—and it is up to you to create these situations.

whimsy. everyday. embrace uncertainty. vulnerability in context.

.. the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free?76 The obvious question is how this approach can contribute to an overall strategy—one that should lead, perhaps not to a single moment of revolutionary redemption, but to a cumulative movement towards a world without states and capitalism.

a gentle/quiet/peaceful .. all inclusive.. structured/alive/self-organzing/perpetuating anarchism..

Rebecca Solnit on times of natural disaster – opening opportunity

shock doctrine

Adam Greenfield on occupy sandy

.. how to ensure that those who go through this experience are not immediately reorganized under some new rubric—..that then gives way to the construction of a new set of rules, regulations, and bureaucratic institutions around it, which will inevitably come to be enforced by new categories of police.

by making sure everyone.. has something else to do.. rather than inspecting, regulating, et al..

ch 2 (of 3) – technology

There appears to have been a profound shift, beginning in the 1970s, from investment in technologies associated with the possibility of alternative futures to investment technologies that furthered labor discipline and social control.

The Federation (in star trek) then, is Leninism brought to its full and absolute cosmic success – a society where secret police, reeducation camps, and show trials are not necessary because a happy conjuncture of material abundance and ideological conformity ensures the system can not run entirely by itself.

maybe the ideological conformity bit was off… 2 needs..

Michael Moore

.. despite unprecedented investment in research on medicine and life sciences, as we still await cures for cancer or even of the common cold; instead, the most dramatic medical breakthroughs we have sen have taken the form of drugs like Prozac, Zoloft, or Ritalin – tailor-made, one might say, to ensure that these new professional demands don’t drive us completely, dysfunctionally, crazy.

What these management techniques invariably end up meaning in practice is that everyone winds up spending most of their time trying to sell each other things:

then this:

to min and max david graeber

.. as American power grew more and more secure, the country’s bureaucracy became less and less tolerant of its outliers.

Meanwhile, in the few areas in which free, imaginative creativity actually is fostered, such as in open-source Internet software development, it is ultimately marshaled in order to create even more, and even more effective, platforms for the filling out of forms.

.. we’re going to have to figure out a different economic system entirely.

ch 3 (of 3) — why we really love bureaucracy after all – the utopia of rules

like money – bureaucracy can take out the soul/interpretive labor – the impersonal as convenient.

The post office was, essentially, one of the first attempts to apply top-down, military forms of organization to the public good.

big section on how germany had the po down. and how much came from that model. first from armies and empires… called an example of the socialist economic system.

Kropotkin often cited the international “universal postal union” of 1878.. as a model for anarchism..

already in the 1830s, Tocquevile had been startled by the size of the u.s. po and the sheer volume of letters…

.. and, unlike the situation in great britain and other european nations, the mail was transmitted w/o govt surveillance or control.

in 1790… carried only 30000 letters, one for about every fifteen person in the country. by 1815 it transmitted nearly 7.5 million… about one every person…. and unlike … great britain and other european nations, … the mail was transmitted w/o govt surveillance or control…. to now (several pages later) where most of us get mail we don’t want, ie: bills.

and then defunded by govt.. so that quickly became the very defn of everything we were supposed to think was wrong with state bureaucracies

journalists treated such outbreaks as the result of either individual insanity, or inexplicable malice. In fact, to even suggest possible structural explanations—.. to point out that before the eighties reforms in corporate culture that destroyed earlier assurances of secure lifetime employment and protections for workers against arbitrary and humiliating treatment by superiors, there had not been a single workplace massacre in all American history (other than by slaves)—seemed somehow immoral, since it would imply such violence was in some way justified

there are only some social systems in which politics in this sense becomes a spectator sport in its own right: where powerful figures engage in constant public contests with one another as a way of rallying followers and gathering support. We now think of this as an aspect of democratic systems of government, but for most of human history, it was seen as more of an aristocratic phenomenon

(There is a reason why the U.S. Senate, for example, is inhabited entirely by millionaires.)

“Aristocracy” after all literally means “rule by the best,” and elections were seen as meaning that the only role of ordinary citizens was to decide which, among the “best” citizens, was to be considered best of all,

voting as spinach or rock ness

One might well argue that political action—and this is true even on the micro-level—is a matter of acting in a way that will influence other people at least partially by their hearing or finding out about it.

This is why poets were so important. The whole point of life was to do things that other people might wish to sing about.

Europeans for most of this period were staunchly opposed to democracy—insisted that “the people” in such a system would inevitably end up behaving like the mob at the Roman circus: .. And to this day, almost all educated people still feel that, even if they are willing to grudgingly accept a few democratic elements in some aspects of society, they need to be kept entirely separate from the administration of justice and the law.

we don’t know what natural human beings would be like. until 100% free. trust.

Administrative procedures are very much not about the creation of stories; in a bureaucratic setting, stories appear when something goes wrong. When things run smoothly, there’s no narrative arc of any sort at all.

Bureaucratic procedures in contrast are based on a principle of transparency. The rules are supposed to be clear, uniformly expressed, and accessible to all. As we all know, this is rarely actually the case. But it is supposed to be true in principle. For most of us, administrative forms are at least as obscure as elvish riddles that only become visible at certain phases of the moon. But they are not supposed to be. In fact, one of the most infuriating bureaucratic tactics is to disguise information through a false pretense of transparency: for instance, to bury a key piece of information in a flurry of departmental emails—so many that no one could possibly read all of them.

Fantasy literature then, is largely an attempt to imagine a world utterly purged of bureaucracy, which readers enjoy both as a form of vicarious escapism and as reassurance that ultimately, a boring, administered world is probably preferable to any imaginable alternative.

anti bureaucratic seen as too crazy.. ie: in need of magic to keep it from – running amok

In the Harry Potter books, that’s exactly the joke: let’s take the most drab, stuffy, institutions responsible for the disenchantment of the world, and try to concoct the most wildly enchanted versions of them we can possibly imagine.

Computer games could turn fantasy into an almost entirely bureaucratic procedure: accumulation of points, the raising of levels, and so on.

introducing role-playing back into the computer games (Elfquest, World of Warcraft …), in a constant weaving back and forth of the imperatives of poetic and bureaucratic technology. But in doing so, these games ultimately reinforce the sense that we live in a universe where accounting procedures define the very fabric of reality, where even the most absolute negation of the administered world we’re currently trapped in can only end up being yet another version of the exact same thing.

We play games. So does that mean play and games are really the same thing? It’s certainly true that the English language is somewhat unusual for even making the distinction between the two—in most languages, the same word covers both. (This is true even of most European languages, as with the French jeu or German spiele.) But on another level they seem to be opposites, as one suggests free-form creativity; the other, rules.


play can be said to be present when the free expression of creativ energies becomes an end in itself. it is freedom for its own sake……..it inevitably does produce at least tacit ones (rules), since sheer random playing around soon becomes boring..

? – do we know that? or is that just the perception of a world from an indoctrination of productivity..?

freedom has to be in tension with something, or it’s just randomness..

? what if randomness is freedom. ie: whimsy. again.. perhaps we don’t know how to describe freedom – since we’ve never experienced it..

this suggests that the absolute pure form of play, one that really is absolutely untrammeled by rules of any sort (other than those it itself generates and can set aside at any instance) itself can exist only in our imagination, as an aspect of those divine powers that generate the cosmos.

ah. i don’t know. i don’t believe that to be true. and again – we don’t know – because it’s something we’ve not yet tried. perhaps.

what ultimatley lies behind the appeal of bureaucracy is fear of play.

i buy that. as in – fear of uncertainty. but i believe we’ve trained ourselves into that. trained ourselves into a play is subversive mentality/legality.

sovereignty – to make rules up as you go along.

rules are safe. game-like behavior seen as transparent/predictable – so seen as freedom.

on language – grammar was invented after language.. but then we use it even as people’s languages morph (as they should) to say they are ie: speaking incorrectly.

nothing to do with a distaste for arbitrary authority, and everything to do with a distaste for arbitrariness itself – a distaste which leads to unthinking acceptance of authority.

freedom, then, really is the tension of the free play of human creativity against the rules it is constantly generating.

Yaacov‘s defn of demo ed

Jo Freeman –structurelessness [ and interpretive labor from David‘s revolution in reverse]

tyranny of structurelessness – jo freeman – 1970 – not pushing for transparent hierarchy – but mechanisms to ensure equality. (once past 20)


yes. mechanism. huge.

so what if we did have a mechanism.. that perpetuated self-organizing/regeneration.. a starting over ness (at minimum) everyday..

decision making\

mechanism simple enough

io dance

– –

superheroes as non-creative. only playing defense. villains as only creatives. supporting the potential for creativity/freedom-of-arbitrariness to veer toward violence/crime/muck ness.




@FinalOverdrive that’s why I define the practical meaning of deregulation in the book as “changing the regulations in a way that I like”

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/571841891295207424

– – –

@omnijack101 usually justifies exploitation. But this actually IS the means of exploitation: profits are from fines for not living up to it.

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/572025334205431808


mar 2015:

Capitalism’s secret love affair with bureaucracy


notes via audio:

as the paperwork spreads we securitize..

lucy: i think you’re flattering bureaucracy..  david: experimented with it; used library w/o legit id..

lucy: one of the beauties of it is that it is impersonal


Kevin on utopia of rules:



find/follow David:

link twitter

I’m an anthropologist, sometimes I occupy things & such. I see anarchism as something you do not an identity so don’t call me the anarchist anthropologist

wikipedia small

David Rolfe Graeber (/ˈɡrbər/; born 12 February 1961) is an American anthropologist, author, anarchistand activist who is currently Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics.

Specialising in theories of value and social theory, he was an assistant professor and associate professorof anthropology at Yale University from 1998 to 2007, although Yale controversially declined to rehire him. From Yale, he went on to become a Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London from Fall 2007 to Summer 2013.

Graeber has been involved in social and political activism, including the protests against the 3rd Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001 and the World Economic Forum in New York City in 2002. He is also a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement.

His book on the Occupy movement and related issues was released as The Democracy Project in 2013. One of the points he raises in this book is the increase in what he calls bullshit jobs, referring to meaningless employment. He sees such jobs as being “concentrated in professional, managerial, clerical sales, and service workers”. As he explained also in an article in STRIKE! magazine:

In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century’s end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.

buckminster ness

earn a living ness


dec 2014 – after 10 day visit to Rojava:

this is a genuine revolution..


I’ve spent my life thinking about how we might be able to do things like this in some remote time in the future and most people think I’m crazy to imagine it will ever be. These people are doing it now. If they prove that it can be done, that a genuinely egalitarian and democratic society is possible, it will completely transform people’s sense of human possibility. Myself, I feel ten years younger just having spent 10 days there.


It seems to me for that very reason it’s our responsibility, as intellectuals, or just as thoughtful human beings, to try to at least think about what something better might look like. And if there are people actually trying to create that better thing, it’s our responsibility to help them out.


bullshit jobs ness

jan 2015 – pointless jobs – 200 tube posters:


I remember being very struck by Dostoyevsky, who was in a Russian prison camp, and he said if you really want to destroy someone psychologically, much worse than through physical torture, just make up a completely meaningless form of work. You know, have them take water from some giant vat and then move it back to the first vat again. Have them do that all day and before long even the most hardened criminal will be utterly despairing of life, because there’s nothing more horrible than devoting one’s life to something completely meaningless. I mean, you know, sure, there will be some freeloaders, but we’ve got more freeloaders right now.

..work is valuable if it makes other people’s lives better.


mar 2015:

reality of bureaucratic life..


that experience of wandering around and feeling like an idiot and incompetent in life, is the necessary clunkiness of living under a bureaucratic regime.

Basically, we assume that market relations are natural, but you need a huge institutional structure to make people behave the way that economists say they are “supposed” to behave. So, for example, think about the way the consumer market works. The market is supposed to work on grounds of pure competition. Nobody has moral ties to each other other than to obey the rules. But, on the other hand, people are supposed to do anything they can to get as much as possible off the other guy — but won’t simply steal the stuff or shoot the person.

Historically, that’s just silly; if you don’t care at all about a guy, you might as well steal his stuff. In fact, they’re encouraging people to act essentially how most human societies, historically, treated their enemies — but to still never resort to violence, trickery or theft. Obviously that’s not going to happen. You can only do that if you set up a very strictly enforced police force. That’s just one example.

this is why I called the book what I did. The phrase “Utopia of Rules” actually applied, when I first coined it, to games. Why do we enjoy games? Well, one reason we enjoy games is because it’s one of the only situations we ever experience in life, perhaps the only experience, where we know exactly what the rules are.

There’s always rules [in life], but usually they’re not spelled out; everyone has a slightly different idea of what they are, there’s all these ambiguities, it’s sort of complicated and then people break them all the time anyway. Life is this endless game of trying to figure out what the rules are and nobody quite understands. Then, [with bureaucracy], you create this imaginary situation, totally bounded in time and space, where everybody knows exactly what the rules are, people actually do follow the rules, and even people who follow the rules can win — which is very unusual in real life.

So there’s two fantasies or freedoms you can imagine: one based on play and one based on games. Play is like pure creativity; in fact, it sort of generates rules. It’s like the ultimate power. But pure creativity is scary on a certain level. On the other hand, pure rule-bound game is a stifle and boring.


“Life is this endless game of trying to figure out what the rules are and nobody quite understands.” – David Graeber @davidgraeber

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/lixilamb/status/573812867201245185


Produced this podcast: capitalism’s love affair with bureaucracy featuring @davidgraeber @MESandbu @lucykellaway http://t.co/cqxmkK2kbZ

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/johnsunyer/status/573813755433381888


promises promises – a history of debt on bbc radio:

episode 1 of 10 – moral power of debt:


gangsters, businessmen, who base their trade on violence..

on developing a network of people that owe them favors.. debts…

2 min – that there’s something deeply moral about debt.. but also deeply unjust..

morality in paying debts, and lenders as evil

4 min – debt so focused on finance.. and so political.. sense that we are trapped in something w/little control..

6 min – debt informs everything we do.. yet no one really understands it..

7 min – in writing about debt – even our most basic assumptions about money – are wrong.. debt actually precedes money and is based on war – undergirded by deep and moral power

8 min – is society really about certain promises we make to one another..

9 min – on sacred notions of covenants.and indebtedness – look at any serious bank bldg – looks like a temple

10 min – paradox of debt – why is it when politicians make promises.. we assume they’ll be broken.. but broken debts seem immoral

12 min – for most of history – most people have been referred to as debtors..

most great revolutionary movements of history began as debt revolts..

episode 2 of 10 – what is debt:


a promise by one person to pay another person a certain amt

also.. debt of gratitude/honor – seems they’re not really debts… but not that simple..

2 min – on debt being the basis of all morality – all comes down to tit for tat – and that all morality based on – reciprocity

5 min – on w/o reciprocity – communism (in terms of commons) – no one keeps track – from each according to ability to each according to needs..

11 min – debt as symbol for guilt/sin – gives it remarkable power

debt is obligation that can be quantified.. now impersonal and transferable.. only when parties are unequal.. that power can be enforced.. and money transaction required

episode 3 of 10 – origin of money:


4 min – for barter to work – easily exchangeable and universally desired – nothing like this (barter) has ever happened, never been found/discovered. barter never has precede money

6 min – economists suppose a spot trade or nothing

9 min – barter, when it does occur – occurs between strangers.. in order for money to occur.. would have to be a regularity – so exchanges set up.. but still no money needed

11 min – so where does money come from…? for fines/compensation..

12 min – to pay comes from – to pacify.. to compensate… as a way to measure debt.. need to provide an exact equivalent for what someone might otherwise kill you..


2012 – radical economy – David and Charles Eisenstein and Daniel Pinchbeck

1:19 – D: you’ll never ever be able to convince a person through logical argument or even brilliant rhetoric that a free and just society is possible. you can show them. you can start doing it. all of a sudden, when people’s horizons change.. conversations will change.



mar 2015 – Paris on David:

Stop fighting for bullshit jobs // Paris Marx: Propaganda [003]

bullshit jobs – dg

bullshit ness


march 2015 – talk at general assembly – occupied uni of amsterdam – on demo-ing ed:

Resistance In A Time Of Total Bureaucratization / Maagdenhuis Amsterdam

4 min – i’m really hopeful that this is the start of something big. it’s remarkable the attention you’ve got the success you’ve had. to me it just shows how powerful direct action is. ..that’s what direct action is – acting as if we were already free, what direct democracy is – the defiant insistence on acting as you can only act in a free society

on realizing.. if that’s possible.. what else is…

14 min – jp morgan got 85% of profits from fees and penalties… rules designed to extract money from you. also – ed – student loans..

20 min – create laws that will guarantee debt.. . make people feel bad about themselves.. the apparatus is criminalizing the population… making population feel as though they have messed up

32 min – education in general – uk – forcing student loans – getting students to have to think like entrepreneurs… in the terms that discredit themselves any other way.. so in terms of ed – uni was supposed to be a place of self-organizing.. 20-30 yrs ago when said uni – meant staff.. now mean admin… you don’t want knowledge to make money..

38 min – we’re defending what they used to call civilization. who are the barbarians here.

40 min – fear – that’s what loans/debt are about. the monsters that are the most scary aren’t the ones that kill you.. but the ones you turn into … you get to be a capitalist without the capital.

41 min – revolution in reverse


49 min – realizing we can’t democratized w/in the system. we had this great movement.. then people wanted to become political leaders.. get them to run campaigns…

51 min – done diff on occupy – realize we were under a tiny window.. that wasn’t going to last

53 min – not so much worried if capitalism will be here in 50 yrs..  as i am about something worse. we need to create something better.

54 min – on dire consequences when robots steal our jobs.. if there’s ever a sign that a society is designed stupidly – is that the prospect of manual labor being eliminated is a problem. if we don’t know what to do with freedom and liberty.. that’s pretty messed up.

57 min – basic income – give everyone means to live and let them decide for selves

58 min – telling kings how to mess up people’s self-organizing… figure out ways to make people think it will never work.

cops in occupy figured out they didn’t have to disrupt a meeting.. just had to wait till crazy person disrupted and then jump to their defense..

1:02 – there’s a lot of experiments we don’t know about.. ie: madagascar – state had actually left.. but didn’t want anyone to know… last thing they wanted to say was – look – we’re autonomous.. because then state would have to come back

we like to think of capitalism of this total system…. there is no giant totality.. there are thousands giant totalities

1:03 – uk.. 50% of work isn’t directed to economy..  these examples exist.. (ie: communism, anarchism, …. ) … we just don’t have any experience with democracy.. oddly enough

1:06 – there’s nothing more important than doing what we’re doing.. sitting in a room.

1:07 – a lot of what happens with power – is not having to think a lot.. you don’t have to use imagination.. so way to get people to get imaginative is to take away their power

1:13 – on falling in love with the formality..

1:15 – on addressing the board: don’t become part of the system – ie: system will want you to elect leaders – and will perpetuate that – in order to communicate

1:18 – making education not a way of stifling minds but of opening them up… children have a natural desire to ask questions.. follow ups… higher ed puts it half way back in… how to get us back to how we were as children to begin with..

detox ness


jan 2012

On Bureaucratic Technologies & the Future as Dream-Time @ SVA

the guy that intro’d David – talked about the importance of occupy spurring questions and us having people that can bring history into it…

5 min – on all the stuff we thought we’d have by 2000

19 min – right around alvin tofler writes this stuff.. the exponential increase stops  71ish

21 min – becoming intrigued with George Gilder –  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Gilder

31 min – reason we don’t have robots to do laundry – is because 95% of robotics is funneled through the pentagon.. then why don’t we have gigantic killer robots.. only way to explain that is – bureaucracy… not a marketization.. but a fusion of ed/govt bureaucracies.. that they thought everyone should spend time selling things to each other – most spend time selling proposals.. et al… ie: apply for grants et al.. paper work.. americans don’t like to confront that we are an intensely bureaucratic society


jan (?) 2015 – the gun has no trigger

convo on resistance in the 21st cent

7 min – feeling of hopelessness essential to their design

8 min – car story for dan – rules/regulations enforced by violence

12 min – even the phrase – structural violence – forms of inequality that are displacements of structural violence… these things exist becomes they are forms of violence with bad effects… when actually – it’s the violence that holds the whole thing together.. ie: if there wasn’t a structure of violence – underlying it all – none of it would matter

14 min – true that violence is communicative – but it’s also true that violence is unique – because it’s the only form of action that has a systematic effect w/o communication.. so you can have effects on others that you know nothing about

16 min – everyday life based on the labor of imagination..

a lot of stuff from revolution in reverse..

26 min – myth of revolution is that we can take out violence in one punch

27 min – direct action – same sequence in opposite order – rather than starting with violence, then parties in streets, then institutions, then everyday life… other way

29 min – just got back from rojava – sign of the war on the imagination..  that we don’t believe it’s (revolution) happening – they said – we’ve been doing this for 3 yrs now – why aren’t you guys noticing.. experimenting, ie: police training – then abolish police; consensus assemblies – dual power system – they create both sides.. bottom up democratic that are armed.. and then govt with parliament that had no power for foreign consumption.. one reason they did it (like the car) can’t do it unless you’re a govt. so they created a dummy govt.. they just lack access to power.. ie: they can’t shoot anybody..

33 min – yeah – we’re re-constituting society… and nobody knows this.. after editing process – completely changed – nobody seems capable of getting through their heads that this is a revolution…. like it can’t be communicated… that inability that it can’t be noticed.. communicated… is a sign of the war of imagination has worked on many people that call themselves the left

35 min – there you go – that’s why we don’t have flying cars (what he read) then he goes into this…

to min and max david graeber

37 min – never has a labor saving device saved labor time

38 min – poetic tech – use bureaucratic tech to solve someone’s crazy dream.. now bureaucratic tech – and what is it to do..? ie: we’ve created ever better platforms to fill out forms

40 min – somehow this is happened to us – and we don’t even notice it even more – more bureaucratic society ever

so – what happens to the future under this peculiar circumstance…. we don’t know what to do with the future anymore (end of future – benito ?)

45 min – why we focus on catastrophic things happening, nuclear war, climate change…

47 min – neoliberalism is really about destroying any other hope for another system.. even at point of destroying own system itself…

56 min – reasons we don’t have these techs – because rich people don’t need them and we have poor people.. certain tech won’t happen without an egalitarian system

57 min – the invisibility of bureaucracy creates a situation where we don’t talk about it

1:01 – flying cars preferred over cell phones

i don’t know.. we’re not unleashing the cell phones.. but seems that would be better.. if unleashed to 7 billion plus..

1:07 – on madagascar being able to do consensus because they always have

1:11 – the more egalitarian the society – the better route tech will take.. the more the divide.. the more tech goes toward that divide.. how much labor is guard labor.. 20-30% watching others.. then work producing more work

2 needs ness

1:15 – on optimism.. i’m quite optimistic about the death of capitalism… we are at a point in time for reinvention of utopianism… it’s not that utopianism is bad.. it’s that just one is.. what we need is lots and lots of utopians..

utopia ness

1:17 – things like occupy allow us to get into language and call things their proper names

1:19 – we’ve gotten rid of the corruption problem in america by making it legal, ie: bribery to write legislation… huge system of circulating bribes

what we have to do is get back to crazy visions on a smaller scale


feb 2015?:


culture is about what you don’t want to be.. culture is about revolutions that won

12 min – talks about madagascar people

15 min – don’t rise according to merit.. but rise according to your ability to admit/lie that people rise according to merit

25 min – jp morgan chase – 85% from fees/penalties.. so rules you can’t keep so they can sustain capitalism


from april 2012

Rebel Cities: David Harvey in conversation with David Graeber

17 min – how do you organize a city.. DH

31 min – experimenting w/horizontal decision makine – DG

33 min – reconsidering the role of the city – DG

34 min – we’re stuck with an old paradigm about work – DG

48 min – the labor force – on the train – getting by on 10000 a yr – half of nyc on 30000 a year – DH

52 min – what happens when a city stops moving.. – what happened was – Juliani came out and say – everyone get out and start shopping… – DH

56 min – america gets out of crises by building houses and filling them with things – sign in san fran – DH

1:21 – large percentage of proletariat are employed to threaten the rest of the people – DG

1:24 – metabolism of the city  – DH


march 2015



end of meaningless work april 2015:


..in 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that by the end of the century technology would have advanced sufficiently that in countries such as the UK and the US we’d be on 15-hour weeks. “In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshalled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more.

Huge swaths of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they believe to be unnecessary.

The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.”


In 2011, at New York’s Zuccotti Park, he became involved in Occupy Wall Street, which he describes as an “experiment in a post-bureaucratic society”. He was responsible for the slogan “We are the 99%”.

99 and 1

“We wanted to demonstrate we could do all the services that social service providers do without endless bureaucracy. In fact at one point at Zuccotti Park there was a giant plastic garbage bag that had $800,000 in it. People kept giving us money but we weren’t going to put it in the bank. You have all these rules and regulations. And Occupy Wall Street can’t have a bank account. I always say the principle of direct action is the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free.”


He is suggesting that, instead of being rule-following economic drones of capitalism, we are essentially playful. The most basic level of being is play rather than economics, fun rather than rules, goofing around rather than filling in forms. Graeber himself certainly seems to be having more fun than seems proper for a respected professor.


@chriscaple I look forward to the day when most of my work is profoundly irrelevant

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/600353107302862848


All Economies are Ultimately Human Economies (may – 2015)

strange thing about capitalism.. it’s the only thing that can make us forget that all economies are really human economies

3 min – modern slavery – isolation engineered as a mode of control

now we actually think that isolation is freedom – but opens us up to depression and disease

we always think about production as production of things.. but really production of people.. i wrote about this in anthropological theory of value (his book)

what are the conditions that would create the best friends.. wealth was a less significant factor

from pov of people running countries – how big is your economy… which messes with the convos, ie: bunch of people dying of aides a terrible effect on the economy.. best reason to come up with is that it will effect overall production of goods and services.. how did we get to where that person could make that speech and not be taken away in a straight jacket.. since it is a form of insanity

how did we get to the point where we don’t recognize the insanity (of the focus of our convos)

major for of labor – production of each other

17 min – our old way of talking about labor need to be reformulated

financialization is like commoditization of love/trust

all revolutions are moral transformations – where basic assumptions change


19 min – if we’re all making a world – why aren’t we making a world that we don’t like very much

we wake up everyday and make capitalism.. so why don’t we wake up and make something else.. all social theory is about that..

23 min – probably most insidious notion capitalists have come up with – if you’re not working most of your time – at something that makes you miserable.. you’re not a good person

28 min – we need an overhaul of our perceptions.. we need to redefine all our terms… ie: communism.. any social relation based on from each according to abilities to each according to needs


capitalism is just a bad way to organize communism

in 2011 we had a revolutionary moment

society is a mutual creation of human beings..

free ed movement … one of first things.. we’ve been told purpose of ed is to improve the economy .. this is backwards.. purpose of economy is to improve education… to give people freedom/luxury to understand the world..

primary purpose of life – taking care of each other


Human Economies (2011)

common goods

we need to change the narrative.. haunted by this myth: once upon a time everything owned in common and everyone happy.. somehow – fall – then war and property have emerged alongside each other.. (mythological communism) .. that was the narrative of regimes that called themselves communists..

but if we get rid of that whole thing… and look at when people act on the principal of – from each according to his abilities to each according to their needs… you see everyone works this to some degree… ie: when working on common projects, esp when it’s an emergency… (ie: hand me the mop, what do i get for it.. doesn’t happen)

11 min – sociality has to be founded on the minimum level.. that if need is great enough or cost small enough.. we act in communism ness

hierarchical relations – completely opposite of reciprocity – if i give you something.. expected to give it again (rather than you give it back)


almost finished my piece on atrocities, deserters & bullying – man did it take a lot out of me. Never wrote anything made me so depressed.

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/605112045495808001


a few notes from David’s theory of value:

what, then, does one do where there is no market in labor at all, or none that is especially important? …. for anthropologists (or for that matter, those who would like to think about al alternative to capitalism) this is obviously one of the most important questions.

p.62 – bourdieu: a truly artful social actor is almost guaranteed not to be able to offer a clear explanation of the principles underlying her own artistry.

p. 77 – value is not created in that public recognition. rather, what is being recognized is something that was, in a sense, already there.

p. 115 – … these struggles over value are always, in the end, political – if only because the most important political struggles in any society .. will always be over how value itself is to be defined.

p. 136 – 1649 ragueneau writes of the huron: ….. now they believe that our soul makes these natural desires known by means of dreams, which are its language.

p. 137 – to realize such dreams, though, one usually needed the help of others; and jesuit reports make it clear that neighbors or kin felt it was incumbent on them to comply with all such “wishes of the soul,” insofar as they were able to do so.

p. 158 – what mauss set out to do, then, was to try to get at the heart of precisely what it was about the logic of the market that did such violence to ordinary people’s sense of justice and humanity.

more notes here: value


2011 ish? – tweeted july 2015 by bruce k – re: jubilee – day after greece votes no. (also in debt)

p1 video:

2 min – societies that don’t have states generally don’t have markets… seem to be side effect of bureaucracy and military

4 min – debt is when you take a promise and turn it into mathematics – can only quantify debt when you’re in a relationship of potential violence

9 min – in a way – transactions shouldn’t be over.. everyone should be in debt.. owing to the gods/govt.. a whole nother thing

12 min – money not mainly used to buy things.. rather to ie: arrange marriages

p2 video:

5 min – on jubilee

8 min – money is not a thing.. just a bunch of promises.. in a democracy.. we can renegotiate..


another great history lesson for me – of flying cars july 2015:


For the technologies that did emerge proved most conducive to surveillance, work discipline, and social control. Computers have opened up certain spaces of freedom, as we’re constantly reminded, but instead of leading to the workless utopia Abbie Hoffman imagined, they have been employed in such a way as to produce the opposite effect. They have enabled a financialization of capital that has driven workers desperately into debt, and, at the same time, provided the means by which employers have created “flexible” work regimes that have both destroyed traditional job security and increased working hours for almost everyone. Along with the export of factory jobs, the new work regime has routed the union movement and destroyed any possibility of effective working-class politics.

Meanwhile, despite unprecedented investment in research on medicine and life sciences, we await cures for cancer and the common cold, and the most dramatic medical breakthroughs we have seen have taken the form of drugs such as Prozac, Zoloft, or Ritalin—tailor-made to ensure that the new work demands don’t drive us completely, dysfunctionally crazy.


The growth of administrative work has directly resulted from introducing corporate management techniques. Invariably, these are justified as ways of increasing efficiency and introducing competition at every level. What they end up meaning in practice is that everyone winds up spending most of their time trying to sell things: grant proposals; book proposals; assessments of students’ jobs and grant applications; assessments of our colleagues; prospectuses for new interdisciplinary majors; institutes; conference workshops; universities themselves (which have now become brands to be marketed to prospective students or contributors); and so on.


we seem to have decided we have no place for our eccentric, brilliant, and impractical citizens.


Jonathan Katz, has recently warned students pondering a career in the sciences. Even if you do emerge from the usual decade-long period languishing as someone else’s flunky, he says, you can expect your best ideas to be stymied at every point:

You will spend your time writing proposals rather than doing research. Worse, because your proposals are judged by your competitors, you cannot follow your curiosity, but must spend your effort and talents on anticipating and deflecting criticism rather than on solving the important scientific problems. . . . It is proverbial that original ideas are the kiss of death for a proposal, because they have not yet been proved to work.

That pretty much answers the question of why we don’t have teleportation devices or antigravity shoes

graeber min\max law


It is significant, then, that our current technological stagnation seems to have begun after 1945, when the United States replaced Britain as organizer of the world economy.


It’s not that vision, creativity, and mad fantasies are no longer encouraged, but that most remain free-floating; there’s no longer even the pretense that they could ever take form or flesh.


Only by breaking up existing bureaucratic structures can we begin. ….Only then will technology begin to be marshaled toward human needs. And this is the best reason to break free of the dead hand of the hedge fund managers and the CEOs—to free our fantasies from the screens in which such men have imprisoned them, to let our imaginations once again become a material force in human history.


july 2015  – Hostile Intelligence: Reflections from a Visit to the West Bank


I only came to fully understand the agony of the Palestinian situation when I came to understand that the entire point of life, in traditional Palestinian society, is put oneself in a position where you can be generous to strangers. Hospitality is everything.


They saw the Zionists as originally their house-guests. Yet they were the worst house-guests one could possibly imagine. …. In such a situation, what can you possibly do? Stop being generous? But then one is absolutely, existentially defeated. This is what people really meant when they talked about a life of calculated degradation. People were being systematically deprived of the physical, the economic, and the political means to be magnanimous.  And to be deprived of the means to make that kind of magnificent gesture is a kind of living death.


finally my bully piece – this took a LOT out of me, somehow, when I wrote it a couple months ago. Left me depressed.

the bully‘s pulpit


There is a tradition of thought—the Lord of the Flies tradition, we might call it—that interprets schoolyard bullies as a modern incarnation of the ancestral “killer ape,” the primordial alpha male who instantly restores the law of the jungle once no longer restrained by rational adult male authority. But this is clearly false. In fact, books like Lord of the Flies are better read as meditations on the kind of calculated techniques of terror and intimidation that British public schools employed to shape upper-class children into officials capable of running an empire. These techniques did not emerge in the absence of authority; they were techniques designed to create a certain sort of cold-blooded, calculating adult male authority to begin with.


Bullying is more like a refraction of its authority. To begin with an obvious point: children in school can’t leave. Normally, a child’s first instinct upon being tormented or humiliated by someone much larger is to go someplace else. Schoolchildren, however, don’t have that option. If they try persistently to flee to safety, the authorities will bring them back. This is one reason, I suspect, for the stereotype of the bully as teacher’s pet or hall monitor: even when it’s not true, it draws on the tacit knowledge that the bully does depend on the authority of the institution in at least that one way—the school is, effectively, holding the victims in place while their tormentors hit them.


Very little of this focus on the role of institutional authority is reflected in the psychological literature on bullying, which, being largely written for school authorities, assumes that their role is entirely benign.


It’s also possible that audiences of grade schoolers react passively to bullying because they have caught on to how adult authority operates and mistakenly assume the same logic applies to interactions with their peers. If it is, say, a police officer who is pushing around some hapless adult, then yes, it is absolutely true that intervening is likely to land you in serious trouble—quite possibly, at the wrong end of a club. And we all know what happens to “whistleblowers.” (Remember Secretary of State John Kerry calling on Edward Snowden to “man up” and submit himself to a lifetime of sadistic bullying at the hands of the U.S. criminal justice system? What is an innocent child supposed to make of this?) The fates of the Mannings or Snowdens of the world are high-profile advertisements for a cardinal principle of American culture: while abusing authority may be bad, openly pointing out that someone is abusing authority is much worse—and merits the severest punishment.

– – –

He wasn’t really telling Sandra to get out the car. He was talking to Travis who wouldn’t stop taking his lunch

money in 8th grade.

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/WyzeChef/status/623660133411897344



David Graeber (@davidgraeber)
8/20/15 4:39 AM
I think Greece should charge the rest of Europe for it past contributions: you know, 100 billion euros for Aeschylus, 200 bil for Socrates..

or maybe Greece should just declare copyright on all ancient authors & charge for 2500 years of outstanding royalties

a GREAT David Graeber article from 2007: http://t.co/acsO7d8U3M (w/a couple of odd typos that likely come from scanning?) SO GOOD!

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/secretdoor/status/651118180731977730

When we are working for a living, or buying and selling things, we are rewarded with money. But whenever we are not working or buying or selling, when we are motivated by pretty much anything other than the desire to get money, we suddenly find ourselves in the domain of “values.”

At the same time, they are also seen as utterly unique; whereas money makes all things comparable, “values” such as beauty, devotion, or integrity cannot, by definition, be compared. There is no mathematical formula that could possibly allow one to calculate just how much personal integrity it is right to sacrifice in the pursuit of art or how to balance responsibilities to your family with responsibilities to your God.

One might put it this way: if value is simply what one considers important, then money allows importance to take a liquid form, by enabling us to compare precise quantities of importance and trade one off for the other. I

This is, of course, the secret of nobility. To be noble is to be generous, high-minded, altruistic, to pursue higher forms of value. But it is also to be able to do so because one does not really have to think too much about money.


oct 2015 interview:


[thinking as the page translates for me.. about open/jargon ness… and how 7 bill languages could be translated in no time. then as reading.. how translations aren’t exact.. and how that is fractally fitting with how communication is already (never finished).. making us stay connected to the source.. for ongoing clarification ness]

q: how is it that no one reacts.. (to all the B)  a: response/answer is to make more rules

For that we adhere as one man at the bureaucratic project, it must be attractive. The capitalist system has been well understood. Whenever existing rules create a grotesque situation, it promises a solution … by inventing new rules! Whether the problem is never solved and the system becomes a machine for making regulations, “transparency” is safe. On behalf of this new ideal, the effort to break free from the arbitrary power produced even more arbitrary power: regulations stifle us, surveillance cameras are appearing everywhere, science and creativity are strangled and we all spend a growing share of our days filling out forms.

Deregulation does not rid us of the rules: it creates others, different. Say that deregulates is always an ideological promise – the real objective is to issue its own rules and be the first to board.


The Occupy Wall Street movement has indeed immediately understood. The young people who started in 2011 had realized that they had followed the rules – made extensive studies as he had asked, accumulated debts for decades (and promised to repay) earned their degrees … To discover what? That the same institutions they would have to pay interest throughout their lives had not complied with the rules, they; they had destroyed the economy through their speculative schemes and fared without a scratch!


when we knew them within our reach?


when we knew them within our reach?


Watch @davidgraeber show you why balancing the budget is bad for your pocketbook (in about 3 minutes)https://t.co/d4amGAHGR5

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/NickolasMario/status/659459556892766208


David on london real – nov 2015

David Graeber – American Anarchist – PART 1/2 | London Real

graeber min/max law

on no motivation w/o money.. we’ve modeled the opposite.. we don’t reward creatives..

14 min – 98% of people who could be coming up with creative ideas are working 14 hour days.. there’s probably nobody in the world that couldn’t come up with an idea.. problem… vast majority of people are told to shut up everyday… people like peter don’t realize that because it didn’t happen to them.. structural violence.. a distinction between institutions that could exist w/o violence and ones that can’t

17 min – anarchist: last 50 yrs.. never bomb anybody..  annoys govt because act as if irrelevant.. acting as if already free.. direct action – ignoring people in power

20 min – my timing had been off.. then in 2010 – i had the best timing conceivable.. ie: debt book promotions… 16 beaver street meeting… anti-austerity movements.. occupy..

22 min – 2001 – argentina – neighborhood govt’s

25 min – vertical vs horizontal crowds…

28 min – that’s when we came up with the people’s microphone.. mic is illegal.. so people repeat what you say… kept people on point.. if 1000s are going to repeat it

31 min – overwhelming majority of people there were debt refugees… ie: i did what i was told.. i’m 40000 dollars in debt.. because of bankers who didn’t play by rules and got bailed out.. and i’m going to be treated like a dead beat.. and have to pay the banks..

33 min – we didn’t want to have demands.. that’s other people solving your problems.. it’s direct opposite of direct action.. so if that’s the case.. who are we..  99%

36 min – finance is a word for other people’s debts…

38 min – 99% individ posters.. i want to do a job to help people.. but that doesn’t pay enough to take care of my fam

40 min – success – changed focus of debate: inequality .. miss: we thought left would back us more..

46 min – a freedom realizing you’ve never been in a crowd that was self-organized.. but also .. every move there could be violence..

on bullshit jobs:

i did this with my debt book tour.. i decided to do the opposite (of having to tour with a repeated script).. turn all those crazy rants and get them out there…

2 min – you keep meeting people who are embarrassed by what they do… and this is exactly what capitalism isn’t supposed to do… private firms making up jobs.. paying people for things for not doing anything… ie: all these industries.. that if they disappeared .. no one would notice… ie: telemarketing; corp lawyers; armies; middle management who organize meetings, fill out form, create paperwork/reports…. this is why people aren’t working

6 min – you have all these people administering other people... how does this happen… it’s not consumerism.. seems to be the idea that work is a value of itself..


jan 2016


here’s my interview on RT an hour & a half ago about repression of academics who appealed for peace talks in Turkey youtube.com/watch?v=2tmx-R


not sure when interview was.. but post is jan 2016


It’s already happening: Anonymous, WikiLeaks, or to a certain extent 3D printing are the beginning of something. You know, technological developement always follows social trends. Do you think people in renaissance Florence said “let’s create capitalism: it will involve factories, stock exchange, etc.”? Of course not. It was not planned. The same is true for us: once we start with a vision of what we want to achieve as a society, technological innovation will follow.

Imagine if all these people sitting at desks producing securitized derivatives or trading algorithms were instead trying to create a system of resource allocation that would do the same sort of things the Soviets wanted to achieve but were clearly not capable of coming up with. They could probably give birth to something interesting.


We are living in the era of predatory bureaucratization. What percentage of the typical American household revenue is directly extracted by the financial sector?


On living with the paranoia that comes from being unable to see clearly in #Palestine from @DavidGraeber

“My… https://t.co/yU9dasHl15

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/dtbyler/status/696097290700877824

Settlements are, in their own way, giant engines for the production of right-wing consciousness. It is very difficult for someone placed in hostile territory, given training in automatic weapons and warned to be constantly on one’s guard against a local population seething over the fact that your next-door neighbors have been killing their sheep and destroying their olive trees, not to gradually see ethno-nationalism as common sense.


They want a population that is compliant on a day-to-day basis, but that periodically explodes, individually or collectively, in a unstrategic and uncoordinated fashion that can represented to the outside world as irrational demonic madness.


If bullying is to be defined as, in its essence, a form of aggression designed to produce a reaction that can then be used as retroactive justification for the initial act of aggression itself, then the Israeli Occupation has taken bullying and turned it into a principle of governance. Everything is designed to provoke. The provocations are daily. They are ugly and humiliating. But they are also designed to fly just under the point of flagrant, undeniable aggression, where you can claim they were not even, precisely, an “attack,” but like the schoolyard bully who’s constantly subtly poking and jabbing and kicking his victim, hoping for some outraged burst of ineffective rage that can get the victim hauled before the principal.


I only came to fully understand the agony of the Palestinian situation when I came to understand that the entire point of life, in traditional Palestinian society, is put oneself in a position where you can be generous to strangers. Hospitality is everything.


People were being systematically deprived of the physical, the economic, and the political means to be magnanimous.  And to be deprived of the means to make that kind of magnificent gesture is a kind of living death.


feb 2016 – tweetstream from david:

quote of the day from Yancey Orr: “Perhaps external responsibilities that are not directly related to a primary function of a profession…are part of any job. For instance, society finds it reasonable to ask a surgeon who is required to perform intricate high-stakes surgery… with his hands to also teach students and administer facilities in-between surgeries. Yes, society does do this but the analogy is subtly… inaccurate. Academics are to thoughts as neurosurgeons are to specific controlled hand movements. It would more closely be the equivalent.. the central activity of the profession. To carry this a step further, to ask people whose profession is to have complicated and nuanced… thoughts and then expects them to constantly respond to the minutia of administrative email, would be like asking Herbert von Karajan to… fix the rickety audio systems of arcade pinball machines according to the fickle needs of tone-deaf adolescents in-between conducting… performances at the Berlin Philharmonic.




money ness

money revelations


bullshit jobs – dg


– – –

radical econ

revolution in reverse

revolution of everyday life – lifedo this first

refugee camps

www (berners-lee, palmer, graeber)

graeber min\max law

graeber f&b same law



was wanting to link entropy to bit on jo freeman and structureless\ness… but can’t find any of it just now on this page .. reaffirming to me.. the need for some chip to allow the misc to remain misc.. yet findable..


added to books to read


@davidgraeber if u were teaching writings of david graeber, where would u start?

Lost People…it’s my best book. A little long but raises most issues I’m later to explore

finally got it.. lost people


HAU Journal (@haujournal) tweeted at 3:11 AM – 18 Dec 2016 :

More from the Sherry Ortner debate – David Graeber and his response “Reflections on Reflections” https://t.co/VbacrBFVGl (http://twitter.com/haujournal/status/810427304753106944?s=17)

what is the basis on which to distinguish those who get to name themselves and those who don’t?


if talking political movements, “everyone” never really means literally everyone..why compelled to..prove to self on side of underdog

public consensus always oppresses someone (s) ..


David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 5:20 AM – 6 Jan 2017 :

@djohngo oh for god’s sake, he ran as “this place is a mess I’ll bring radical change” & HRC ran as “things are fine I’ll keep it the same’ (http://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/817345046211166209?s=17)


whole thread:


allow me to take the occasion of Obama’s emotional farewell speech to note he was a terrible, terrible president

ending with this rt:


destitution up, hunger up, debtors prisons re-appeared, occupy gassed & beaten, yet I’m told Obama was *great* for women


via rt by David (video/panel from 2015 with Brian Eno)

小林拓音 TakuneKOBAYASHI (@takunekobayashi) tweeted at 11:17 PM – 10 Dec 2015 :

Basic Income: How do we get there? Brian Eno, David Graeber and Frances Coppola https://t.co/LPuhmPqYDa(http://twitter.com/takunekobayashi/status/675197714653700096?s=17)

5 min – brian: subject that interests me most.. i think about most.. is waste.. of human potential.. how many people are not using themselves well… because they can’t.. circumstances don’t encourage them to do so .. no demand for what they can offer

bi as temp placebo.. fake

6 min – brian: plenty of ayn rand followers in high places.. ie: in silicon valley.. ayn: ‘any group is only a number of individuals.. if any civilization is to survive.. it’s the reality of altruism that men have to reject..’… to me.. this is a kind of naive darwinism that doesn’t allow for the fact that we aren’t unconscious organisms.. we’re conscious.. as soon as consciousness enters the picture.. darwinism doesn’t work any more…even darwin would agree with that .. but people like ayn rand didn’t actually get/read that part of the book

7 min – brian: the randian approach is that there are great individuals who distinguish themselves.. push forward.. and then pull the rest of humanity.. the rest of humanity is a kind of relatively inert working/serving class.. and there are a few people thru willpower and intellect and whatever genes they end up with.. pull the rest of us.. this is almost the opposite of what i think.. that although great new ideas are usually articulated by individuals.. they’re nearly always generated by communities..

8 min – brian: i think what i see as the waste.. is the waste we make of that possibility of cooperative intelligence..

ie: hosting-life-bits via self-talk as data.. as the day..

i made a word for this a long time ago.. genius: process of singling out people in our industry and saying.. those are the important ones.. whenever you look at any of those artists.. you find they lived and drew from a very very active flourishing cultural scene.. and they were only one of the elements in that scene..ie: aware of what others are doing.. picking out.. distilling.. shuffling it..  all these people called genius actually sat in the middle of something i call scenius.. genius is creative intelligence of an individual..  scenius is the creative intelligence of a community.. what i want to see is more attention given to that possibility.. of creative behavior

10 min – brian: so opp of ayn randianism.. the understanding that 1\ all people are born unequal..so everybody has a unique set of gifts/talents.. 2\ intelligence is generated by communities.. by cooperation of some kind..

the biggest obstacle to that at the moment is that people have to earn a living..

earn a living.. making up money..

i’m often asked to give a talk at unis and often not asked back.. because i talk that you shouldn’t have a job.. and profs first task is to smooth you into a job.. that means..

11 min – brian: try to leave yourself in the position where you do the things you want to do and take max advantage of your possibilities.. and most people aren’t in the positions to do that.. i want to do anything to work to future where everybody is in position to do that..

in terms of bi.. i probably know less about subject than anyone else here .. but what i do know is that the concept is the closest thing i’ve heard to achieving the kind of future that i would like to live in

so let’s try it (bi) as temp placebo.. ie: short bp

14 min – frances: a growing waste.. by being forced to earn a living.. impoverishing not only them… but us as a society .. my piece.. the change of nature of work

16 min – frances: if we can automate production of needs.. and make sure proceeds get equally distributed.. so people have means to live

or what if we just say.. bunk.. to proceeds ness

earn a living.. making up money..

22 min – david: most people like anarchist ideas more than the like the word

23 min – david: i realized.. most white collar workers exist to make workers feel bad about themselves.. to feel you’re inadequate.. undeserving..

24 min – david: i finally came to the conclusion that financialization and bureaucratization are the same thing..  ie: the govt is the bank..

25 min – david: this B creating jobs telling you that value comes from paperwork rather than from anything anyone actually does..

26 min – david: increasingly more time assessing what it is you’re doing than doing it.. all forms of paperwork.. value thru paperwork.. and finance is just the peak of it.. people w most elab paperwork… how do we just get rid of these

27 min – david: every single time .. try to get rid of red tape, B, et al.. you end up with more regulation.. more paperwork.. and more bureaucrats.. ie: 25% more bureaucrats in russia right now then there were under soviet union… so that’s what liberal reforms always do… so what would be a left wing position that would be anti bureaucratic.. we need to grab this.. answer is pretty obvious.. fire all those guys and give everyone same amt of money

or… fire money as well

28 min – david: it’s based on a re assessment of the nature of work… comes to this..really look at what it is that is valuable..meaningful about the things we do everyday..

30 min – david: the thing that people in power fear the most is people that have basic security and time

33 min – david: focus on labor intermingled with focus on production.. when in fact most labor is not productive.. most labor isn’t about making things.. it’s about keeping things the same.. ie: an environment where things can grow.. caregiving.. caretaking..

interpretive labor

35 min – david: what makes work valuable.. is a care for other people.. it benefits people.. and nobody can decide how that’s going other than the people doing it


re imagining value report – David Bollier.. David Graeber – value.. et al


telling you value comes from paperwork rather than what anyone does

thing (those on top) fear most.. people that have basic securities and time
have this notion value comes from labor.. but also.. value comes from production.. where.. most labor is not productive.. it’s not about making things .. it’s about keeping things the same.. ie: caregiving..
work is valuable in itself.. valuable even if don’t get anything out of it

what makes work valuable.. it’s a form of care for other people.. and nobody can decide how that happens other than the people doing it

something like bi can help us re evaluate what we value about what we do

bi as temp placebo..



Exactly: “For the rich and powerful, popular cynicism is extraordinarily convenient” @davidgraeber#uspoli#ge2017newstatesman.com/politics/june2…

everyone realised no one really much liked it to begin with

ending pluralistic ignorance

The only remaining question is: has the bubble fully collapsed?

rather.. is there a nother way .. everyone would like


article from mar 2014


Beautiful piece of writing from @davidgraeber calling working classes to unite & stand against the ruling “elite”. theguardian.com/commentisfree/…

this is what being “powerful” is largely about: not having to pay a lot of attention to what those around one are thinking and feeling. The powerful employ others to do that for them

Most of the work we do is on each other. The working classes just do a disproportionate share. They are the caring classes, and always have been.

interpretive labor ness



DAVID GRAEBER on the Human Cost of Economics youtu.be/0RB10fVZxCs

from the artificial production of debt and the human costs of this are enormous

nurses using food banks.. poverty level for people who are working quite hard.. and it’s all completely unnecessary

terrible irony.. not only is it not true might be the opposite..

people don’t want to rethink everything.. esp people who have made so many sacrifices in the name of a false understanding

graeber rethink law


Christine Miller (@ChristineMiller) tweeted at 6:11 AM – 5 Nov 2017 :

Insightful and powerful article in the Guardian David Graeber “My mother was an enormous human stuck in a tiny box.” https://t.co/yvcW3PQuXO(http://twitter.com/ChristineMiller/status/927161341172994048?s=17)

Because just as everyone associated with hotels falls into lockstep to tell chambermaids they are unworthy of protection from rapists, so did everything in my mother’s environment conspire to tell her she had no grounds for complaint if someone told her was unworthy to continue to perform on stage, whatever her attainments, without also performing in private as a part-time sex worker.

As a result, her sense of self collapsed.

All of us are heirs to a thousand forms of violence. Many shape our lives in ways we’ll never know. My mother was an enormous human stuck in a tiny box. Late in her life she was still hilariously funny; but she also collected tea-towels with inscriptions like “don’t expect miracles.”

In endless ways, the violence of powerful men plays havoc with our souls. It makes us complicit in acts of mutual destruction. It’s too late now for my mother. She died ten years ago, taking the details of what happened with her. But if we can do anything for her now, can’t we at least break out of lockstep?

a nother way.. roots of healing


David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 5:19 PM on Wed, Nov 08, 2017:
if anyone’s still curious what really happened to me at Yale https://t.co/BjvXR028MH

How could a system ostensibly designed to give scholars the security to be able to say dangerous things have been transformed into a system so harrowing and psychologically destructive that, by the time scholars find themselves in a secure position, 99% of them have forgotten what it would even mean to have a dangerous idea? t

To end with a sociological reflection on silencing, then, I would invite the reader to consider the following. I agreed to write this because I have no intention to apply for an academic position in America in the foreseeable future. There is probably not a single paragraph in this essay that I would not have self-censored had that not been the case.


David Graeber’s ‘Dead zones of the imaginations’ introduces a very important concept of how to view hierarchy as affecting social imagination: interpretive labor https://t.co/V7oDOwIKgH

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/urbanfriendden/status/960877974429020162

All of these forms of blindness ultimately stem from trying to navigate our way through situations made possible by structural violence. It will take enormous amount of work to begin to clear away these dead zones.

a nother way

as it could be

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]


infra for graeber anarchism law: 2 convos



eithne (@eithne52) tweeted at 5:21 PM – 24 Feb 2018 :

There is a word for such a strategy. It’s called “terrorism” – a calculated effort to cause terror. The question is, why is the rest of the world cooperating?

Why are world leaders backing this brutal attack against #Kurdish #Afrin? | David Graeber https://t.co/M1gBmapxEw (http://twitter.com/eithne52/status/967555136741453825?s=17)

The religious extremists who surround the current Turkish government know perfectly well that Rojava doesn’t threaten them militarily. It threatens them by providing an alternative vision of what life in the region could be like. Above all, they feel it is critical to send the message to women across the Middle East that if they rise up for their rights, let alone rise up in arms, the likely result is that they will be maimed and killed, and none of the major powers will raise an objection. There is a word for such a strategy. It’s called “terrorism” – a calculated effort to cause terror. The question is, why is the rest of the world cooperating?


@davidgraeber lectures at the Collège de France. No tat here. Les Frogs certainly do things in style. Preamble in French with simultaneous translation, then DG in English https://t.co/JYjhFXWhCj #anarchism #anthropology https://t.co/hCMin5kpzD

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/JonangusMackay/status/981561866819395585

1:15 – it seems to me that caring labor is best conceived as labor that is directed ultimately at maintaining or enhancing another’s freedom.

1:17 –  i think we could re conceive value in creating labor not in terms of production/consumption.. but.. in care as freedom and freedom as play .. such a view is already tacitin people’s sense of social value or lack of it in their own labor.

rest of notes on caring labor page


human history:

graeber/wengrow back & forth law

graeber/wengrow never stupid law

graeber/wengrow top down law

on kings

lost people


I wrote an apology to anyone who has been hurt because of their involvement with HAU. I feel very sorry about this.  https://t.co/CTwF6Ofwfu

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/1006210431050895362

David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 5:23 AM – 17 Jun 2018 :
here’s a thought re #hautalk – why not take the occasion to ask what is going on in our own departments? Are junior scholars being bullied? Are adjuncts & grad students being exploited? Are there people who not only live in fear but are afraid to even say so? (http://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/1008309270188843008?s=17)

David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 5:27 AM – 17 Jun 2018 :
I’m not saying even senior scholars are necessarily in a position to fix the problems – many due to structural changes in Universities & larger political-economic forces which at least in theory we oppose – but the first thing those who suffer usually want is just acknowledgement (http://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/1008310226347610113?s=17)

On the phenomenon of assholery in academia, and how to defeat it. https://t.co/2GRs79jA5T
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/jasonhickel/status/1014863713294315521

even assumed nice anthros (i’m thinking graeber, wesch, hickel. ..) can’t listen to all the people.. that’s why we need a diff approach/mech/means.. that can.. ie: 2 convos as infra

as it could be


David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 5:29 PM on Mon, Jun 11, 2018:
Incidentally when they describe me as “bestselling author” and say Debt was an “international bestseller” what they actually mean is it was #2 in Germany one week and #7 once in France. I’ve never been in the top 50 or even 100 in any English speaking country far as I know.


siddiqi border law.. (structural violence et al – rev in reverse):

“There’s all these imaginary lines around the world with not-so-imaginary weapons protecting them.” @davidgraeber
Over 5 years ago and still relevant  https://t.co/JmbdvPBgEk
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/THREADRIOT/status/1009116647242780673

video is his 15 min talk – The possibility of political pleasure: TEDxWhitechapel

on trusting the consensus process – coming up w a creative solution that no one violently objects to

3 min – part of the pleasure is an abandonment of self.. that comes from the trust in others that others (or group as a whole – which doesn’t always happen) are actually smarter than you..

4 min – i could speak but i don’t have to.. sometimes you just let go.. and that’s a lot of where the pleasure comes from

let go ness

so how is that experience reproducible..

5 min – people who created constitution.. hated democracy/diversity..  ie: we need to contain this.. we need to tamp down too much democracy..

stamped from the beginning

7 min – why did they have to do that?.. seems to be a desire.. that people should be able to manage own affairs.. so what would it take to bring that idea to realization..

meadows undisturbed law

9 min – they didn’t imagine equality was possible

equity is

11 min – imaginary lines w/not so imaginary weapons

major thing.. there is no lacking creative interesting ideas.. imagine.. all lines erased..

12 min – the greatest squandered resource is all those people who have got them (creative ideas to solve solutions) have no forum in which to say them.. or literally told to shut up.. question is how to unleash that..

13 min – need to create structures/context .. where that kind of group mind.. actual democracy can take root.. we have to challenge those invisible walls.. look at those structures of power more seriously

as it could be

most people .. i know what we could do.. i wish i could say it

structure of ineq make it impossible.. but.. it would create a society actually capable of solving problems the world faces today..


David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 2:53 PM on Sat, Sep 08, 2018:
So I’m getting old now. And capitalism is still here. I mean, yes, okay, it’s not in the best of shape. Definitely showing signs of stress. But so am I. So are you guys going to get your acts together to get rid of it now before i die in 30 years or so? C’mon. Please?

radical econ could do it in way less than 30


yellow vests

David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 6:23 PM on Mon, Dec 10, 2018:
the “like” is for the picture, not my own text. Great picture! https://t.co/SVhk3gWTHv

As government and financial bureaucracies become so intimately intertwined it’s increasingly difficult to tell one from the other, wealth and power

graeber f&b same law

particularly, the power to create money (that is, credit)—also become effectively the same thing. (This was what we were drawing attention to in Occupy Wall Street when we talked about the “1%’—those with the ability to turn their wealth into political influence, and political influence back into wealth.) ..t

In France of course these are precisely the Macronists. Members of these classes feel that they are the embodiments of any possible universalism, their conceptions of the universal being firmly rooted in the market, or increasingly, that atrocious fusion of bureaucracy and market which is the reigning ideology of what’s called the “political center.” Working people in this new centrist reality are increasingly denied any possibility of universalism, since they literally cannot afford it..t

About the only class of people who seem unable to grasp this new reality are intellectuals.

Just as during Nuit Debout, many of the movement’s self-appointed “leadership” seemed unable or unwilling to accept the idea that horizontal forms of organization were in fact a form of organization (they simply couldn’t comprehend the difference between a rejection of top-down structures and total chaos)..t, so now intellectuals of left and right insist that the Gilets Jaunes are “anti-ideological”, unable to understand that for horizontal social movements, the unity of theory and practice (which for past radical social movements tended to exist much more in theory than in practice) actually does exist in practice.These new movements do not need an intellectual vanguard to provide them with an ideology because they already have one: the rejection of intellectual vanguards and embrace of multiplicity..t .. and horizontal democracy itself.

There is a role for intellectuals in these new movements, certainly, but it will have to involve a little less talking and a lot more listening..t

all the voices.. always..

as it could be


Tyler McConnell (@tjmac87) tweeted at 10:17 PM on Sun, Jan 20, 2019:
“Work, Aristotle insisted, in no sense makes you a better person; in fact, it makes you a worse one, since it takes up so much time, thus making it difficult to fulfill one’s social and political obligations.”

thinking obligations do the same


another session w james butler – feb 2019

Novara Media (@novaramedia) tweeted at 5:57 AM – 4 Feb 2019 :
. @davidgraeber on last week’s #NovaraFM explaining the surprising origin of the idea of ‘progress’.
Full show: https://t.co/LHj8fOjdBEhttps://t.co/y2ekbhrLWv (http://twitter.com/novaramedia/status/1092406772554444800?s=17)

11:50 min – if people learn more info and change their minds why is that anti democratic..t

bravery to change mind every day

13 min – brief moment in 2008 .. where anything was open to question

26 min – on @aoc.. and her age are the ones that were 20 ish during occupy

36 min – bi provides a good thought experiment.. a way of resetting our brains.. to realize money is this thing we can make appear and disappear.. reset the way we look at livelihood..t

bi as temp placebo.. graeber bi law

47 min – i think we need to talk about freedom – the revolt of the caring classes

49 min – why not instead of production and consumption we substitute caring and freedom.. caring primarily aimed at maintaining another person’s freedom.. what would you do to the world if you reimagined it that way.. t

free dom and caring labor

53 min – origins on social ineq.. at first not about equality .. about freedom.. if don’t have basic needs met can’t be free.. gradually turns into a discourse about equality


David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 1:01 AM on Fri, Apr 05, 2019:
According to scientists working on animal play, when two rats play fight or play compete, the bigger rat lets the littler rat win 30% of the time just to keep life more interesting. Learning this made me extremely happy. The universe isn’t as bad as we like to think.


David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 2:38 AM on Thu, Apr 25, 2019:
I’ve never been married before. Even though the proper ceremony is later, in London & Berlin, I have never been more moved than that someone who actually knows me would want to be with me forever. https://t.co/AyJieDnuYi


art world with nika


Exceptionally good piece by @DavidGraeber on the apparatus that manufactures social hopelessness and the people’s forgetfulness that they have repeatedly vanquished it. Flimsy indeed is a system that must always subdue imagination to continue. https://t.co/PD0YW9zbS7
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/impermanen_/status/1176881442787184640

sept 7 2019 article – hope in common


David Wengrow (@davidwengrow) tweeted at 6:33 AM on Thu, Nov 14, 2019:
Absolute must-read from @davidgraeber, for so many reasons I can’t even figure out where to begin. https://t.co/hO8EwQkhbi

The problem, as Skidelsky emphasizes, is that if your initial assumptions are absurd, multiplying them a thousandfold will hardly make them less so. . t.. Or, as he puts it, rather less gently, “lunatic premises lead to mad conclusions”:

perhaps our bigger/deeper problem is thinking/assuming that money (any form of measuring/accounting) should be part of the conversation

let’s go with 2 convers as infra

*This demands a different science. The “microfoundations” of current economics are precisely what is standing in the way of this.. t Any new, viable science will either have to draw on the accumulated knowledge of feminism, behavioral economics, psychology, and even anthropology to come up with theories **based on how people actually behave, or once again embrace the notion of emergent levels of complexity—or, most likely, both

*perhaps it’s the science/measuring ness that is standing in the way

**rather.. all current theories are based on how whales in sea world behave

Intellectually, this won’t be easy. Politically, it will be even more difficult. Breaking through neoclassical economics’ lock on major institutions, and its near-theological hold over the media—not to mention all the subtle ways it has come to define our conceptions of human motivations and the horizons of human possibility—is a daunting prospect. *Presumably, some kind of shock would be required..t What might it take? Another 2008-style collapse? Some radical political shift in a major world government? A global youth rebellion? However it will come about, books like this—and quite possibly this book—will play a crucial part.

not books.. rather.. *letting go.. letting entropy .. et al


David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 5:39 AM – 23 Nov 2019 :
this guy thinks £80k/year is below average income? (In fact the median is 24k and the mean 37k). Presumably he think he’s just getting by. My question: how did we create a bubble where professional-managerial types simply have no conception how most people live? https://t.co/WwBCwJk60b (http://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/1198219507979997185?s=17)

BERNERSforYANG (@BERNERSforYANG) tweeted at 5:42 AM – 23 Nov 2019 :
@davidgraeber It’s the same here in USA, people think 24k/year ubi won’t help the vast majority of people.
Cluelessness (http://twitter.com/BERNERSforYANG/status/1198220238980034561?s=17)

let’s try/code money (any form of measuring/accounting) as the planned obsolescence

ie: ubi as temp placebo..


David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 0:44 PM on Tue, Dec 03, 2019:
this video is going up in a bunch of places but here’s mine: my take on the AS controversy and why intentionally fanning the flames, as so many are doing, endangers Jewish people https://t.co/yXgKrRBKvT

2 min video


Wendy L Schultz (@wendyinfutures) tweeted at 3:22 AM – 18 Dec 2019 :
Insightful thread on new class divisions and politics. https://t.co/9oFW2okN80 (http://twitter.com/wendyinfutures/status/1207244629348962304?s=17)

threaded here:


it seems to me there is a massive shift in class structures and class identities, & one reason right wing populism works is because they’re exploiting it more effectively – but I don’t have the real data & I’m curious what’s out there 1/

“working class” no longer means factory work, but largely construction, & above all maintenance, and care work. “Middle class” means administrative & professional (including a lot of bullshit job territory.) So class resentment is increasingly vs professional-managerial 2/

the prof-mans are seen as obsessed with rules, laws, regulation… they are stuffy bureaucrats, whether in the public or private sector, who get in the way of you doing your job. The Parliamentary struggle over Brexit became a perfect metaphor for this. 3/

I actually saw this happening at the time & tweeted about it, that BJ/Cumming’s trick was to win by losing, to force Corbyn to ally with the legalistic Remainers trying to block the popular will, the guys who are about form v content & who thus stack the system in their favour 4/

when I wrote this, I got a private message from a higher-up in the Corbyn camp saying “yes this is exactly what they are trying to do to us. Identify us with the legalistic establishment so they’ll seem the popular insurgents. Please write about this.” But no media’d touch it 5/

this is why Trump, BJ with his phoney chaotic persona, have popular appeal: they’re the exact opposite of the legalistic rule bound administrator upstairs who drives you crazy at your job,& they managed to manoeuvre Corbyn into seeming like he could be that guy 6/

what I’m interested in is the class basis. Obv nurses, teachers, the front-line workers in the new care economy, didn’t vote for BJ but remain LP. What about school or hospital administrators? The higher ups no doubt Tory but the mid-range ones who actually drive you crazy? 7/

what are the core class constituents of each party in terms of the fundamental class opposition emerging in the care-giving economy & what class segments are up for grabs? I’m not a sociologist. I don’t have the data.


Nika Dubrovsky (@nikadubrovsky) tweeted at 11:57 AM on Fri, Feb 21, 2020:
The book about kings with.⁦@davidgraeber⁩ https://t.co/ruGvGG89ui


David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 8:56 AM on Wed, Feb 26, 2020:
leaving aside the silly malicious interpretations, I do find this global panic over what is basically a bad flu to be a significant. There’s a racist element, def, but also I wonder if there’s some kind of indirect unconscious climate panic involved.


5 min video

“There really seems to be this idea that people who are putting their lives on the line for the sake of all of us, shouldn’t be compensated with money because they’re not doing it for money.” @davidgraeberhttps://t.co/Oxii7cfaWH
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/brutamerica/status/1255535954561044483

we have a unique opp to realize just how silly all that is and just cut it out.. we need to focus on what’s really important to us.. and that would mean.. not going back to sleep.. can we do that.. i don’t know.. there’s going to be huge pressure on us to ‘get back to work’


david on to (virus) leap ness

e.g., “we knew the administrators running hospitals etc were useless, but now we see them as murderers.” So all the pieces seem to be there for a revolutionary situation, except the normal role of intellectuals, providing a means of communication between struggles, is stymied 11/
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/1257276705716174850

rest of thread:

@davidgraeber: I think if I start writing something it will focus on what was shaping up before the pandemic, & how it might influence what will happen after. I mean, aside from obvious stuff like the breakneck destruction of the planet 1/

@davidgraeber: first of all, all economists agreed that some sort of economic blow-out was coming, based on unsupportable levels of personal debt & the normal workings of the business cycle. A crash was due & Central Banks were pumping money furiously to slow or soften it 2/

@davidgraeber: 2nd of all, there was an unprecedented wave of popular unrest over late 2019-e2020, much unreported, everywhere from Haiti to Hong Kong to the Gilets Jaunes to Sudan to… someone listed like 40 uprisings, non-violent or otherwise. This was extraordinary 3/

@davidgraeber: it’s perhaps not entirely shocking as it seems to happen every ten years. 1999-2001 was the height of the Alterglobalization movement, worldwide uprising, 2011 of course saw Arab Spring, Squares, OWS… So we were due. But each time, disturbingly, there’s less articulation 4/

articulation? or listening?

both?.. but which would help more.. ie: graeber model law et al

what we need is a means to listen to all the voices/articulations//idio-jargons.. as they are detoxing

ie: focus on self-talk as data via tech as it could be..

@davidgraeber: Global Justice Movement had no top-down org but it had Indymedia, People’s Global Action, a host of planet-wide institutions to connect struggles; the 2011 movements at least shared ideas and people moved back and forth between them 5/

@davidgraeber: this time half the people involved didn’t even know about most of the others, or have any way to follow them closely (as the mainstream media largely ignored them). The other really significant movement was the #RevoltoftheCaringClasses (forgive the shameless branding attempt) 6/

@davidgraeber: that is, as productivity of the health, education, caring sectors decline owing to administrative bloat, digitisation encourages #bullshitization, more people are hired in these sectors under worse conditions, compensation, so all the strikes are teachers, nurses, care workers 7/

@davidgraeber: now of course those very people who had been rebelling or on the brink of it are the “first line workers” still on the job as the administrators who are their immediate class antagonists hide at home, & most of their potential allies are in lockdown 8/

@davidgraeber: in the UK, after World Wars, the left is swept into power. Why? Because working class people 1. suddenly have experience in socialist organisation & see it works, 2. since upper class people are automatically made officers, they have direct experience of what idiots they are, 9/

@davidgraeber: and of course 3. they come home trained in the use of weapons so the political class can’t just entirely ignore their demands. This is being treated as analogous to a war mobilisation & there are some similarities, especially #2 applies & I keep hearing that 10/

@davidgraeber: e.g., “we knew the administrators running hospitals etc were useless, but now we see them as murderers.” So all the pieces seem to be there for a revolutionary situation, except the normal role of intellectuals, providing a means of communication between struggles, is stymied 11/

perhaps ‘normal role of intellectuals’ providing a means of communication is part of what’s been keeping us from any real revolution.. that listening hierarchy ness

d’s response to this tweet:

@davidgraeber: well I was trying to be generous and say “provide means of communication” to imply we could actually *listen & convey, rather come up with the “correct strategic analysis” and all that sort of disastrous stuff

perhaps we try.. *listen & connect..

and perhaps to do that w/o judgment/commentary/bias/whatever/conveyance.. we could repurpose tech/algos.. so that they do what they do best.. (rather than trying to mech them human like).. input/output.. ie: input: self-talk as data; output: augmenting interconnectedness.. use data to connect locals using their daily curiosities as labels/input to make matches

@davidgraeber: we need something like indymedia again. All our means of communication are now corporate – twitter included.

[The Independent Media Center (also known as Indymedia or IMC) is an open publishing network of activist journalist collectives that report on political and social issues.]

or maybe we need to (and now have a chance to) revolutionize communication itself.. ie: less reporting/publishing.. more listening to 8b voices.. everyday.. using that data to augment our interconnectedness

d’s response to this tweet:

@davidgraeber: well that was the idea of Indymedia; it was huge during the Global Justice Movement, and then suddenly everyone switched to facebook and twitter etc and I for one was horrified

the switching to fb/twitter.. perhaps attempts to hear more voices as well.. but if we just hear more and not all.. then we get ie: tragedy of the non common ness

@davidgraeber: how can the working classes recompose (to use the Post-Workerist terminology) around caring labour, what is the role of the communicative classes (if we can call them that) if they’re all confined to their houses? 12/

@davidgraeber: I keep getting back to the poll last week that said only 9% of Brits want to go back to “normal” – but for 50 years not only our imaginations but our ability to talk to each other across class lines has been brutally attacked. How to undo this? 13/

undo the listening hierarchy.. ie: 2 convers as infra

listen & connect


David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 8:11 AM on Tue, May 12, 2020:
What if we defined “the economy” as “the way we take care of one another”?
Since that’s what it ultimately is.
What would economic indicators then look like?

indicator: a gauge or meter of a specified kind

that we no longer need indicators.. any form of measuring/accounting

thinking that if we think we need indicators is a red flag we’re doing it wrong


Roosevelt T Hawkins III (GOD) (@rth3rdgod) tweeted at 4:31 PM on Sat, Jul 25, 2020:
“A revolution on a world scale will take a very long time. But it is also possible to recognize that it is already starting to happen.” – David Graeber

i think we’re seeing.. a revolution could happen in no time..

but we’d have to be deeply focused.. (maté basic needs)

we’d have to let go of irrelevants..




Yesterday the best person in a world, my husband and my friend .@davidgraeber died in a hospital in Venice.
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/nikadubrovsky/status/1301504647769792512

how i hope this is a dream


so glad i spent yesterday (as so many days).. with his words (d&d)


much love to nika

and david

David Wengrow (@davidwengrow) tweeted at 5:47 PM on Thu, Sep 03, 2020:
Thank you to everyone who wrote today, for your kind words. @davidgraeber was my intellectual soulmate, and more than a dear friend – a “substitute brother” as he liked to say. I will finish what we started. I know it’s what he expects of me. It’s beginning. #TheDawnOfEverything

on david dying