david on mutual aid

via kevin fb share – David Graeber Left Us a Parting Gift — His Thoughts on Kropotkin’s “Mutual Aid”: https://truthout.org/articles/david-graeber-left-us-a-parting-gift-his-thoughts-on-kropotkins-mutual-aid/

mutual aid

by Andrej Grubačić @balkanozapatist [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrej_Gruba%C4%8Di%C4%87]

Andrej Grubačić is a US-based Yugoslavworld-systems theorist, Balkan federalist, and university Professor who has written on autonomous zones and mutual aid in world history. ..One of the leading contemporary theorists of anarchism, Grubačić was a prominent member of the now defunct antiglobalization or global justice movement. Grubačić is a long standing friend of the Kurdish freedom movement and one of the most prominent supporters of the democratic revolution in the Kurdish region in Syria, also known as Rojava.

rojava’s third way

His other works include books in Balkan languages, chapters and numerous articles related to the history and utopian present of the Balkans, anarchism, and radical sociology. Grubačić worked with David Graeber to develop an anarchist version of world-systems analysis.

on david’s 60th.. andrej shares this:

Please do read & circulate – Includes probably last essay #DavidGraeber wrote & sums up much of what he believed, followed by a mini-bio he wrote. And illustrates why it is so important to keep his work alive and further it ourselves, as a society. #RIP https://t.co/FtylJQMtNn

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/lightacandleOTM/status/1301877453137289216

same post.. this time on pm press (andrej’s)

notes/quotes from article (adding more in on 2nd read thru):

It is a bitter paradox that the best anthropologist theorist of his generation never felt quite at home in the established anthropology circles.. He was the most generous friend and colleague one could hope to have, and the most formidable opponent of academic snobbery.

When he died, David had just completed his most recent book, one on which he worked for several years. He teamed up with British archeologist David Wengrow to challenge some of the more stubborn assumptions of mainstream social science. This was one of the most ambitious projects David embarked upon, and it should be published in 2021. 

david wengrow

His essay on Mutual Aid, intended as a foreword to Kropotkin’s great work, is probably the last essay that David wrote. We have decided to publish it and to make it available to everyone, in loving memory of our friend, comrade, and mentor.

Introduction from the forthcoming Mutual Aid: An Illuminated Factor of Evolution by David Graeber and Andrej Grubačić

peter kropotkin

notes/quotes from david and andrej’s essay/intro

Sometimes—not very often—a particularly cogent argument against reigning political common sense presents such a shock to the system that it becomes necessary to create an entire body of theory to refute it. Such interventions are themselves events, in the philosophical sense; that is, they reveal aspects of reality that had been largely invisible but, once revealed, seem so entirely obvious that they can never be unseen. . t

yeah that.. quiet enough to see ness

In them he (kondiaronk) presented the argument that punitive law and the whole apparatus of the state exist not because of some fundamental flaw in human nature but owing to the existence of another set of institutions—private property, money—that by their very nature drive people to act in such ways as to make coercive measures necessary. .t

and big yeah to that..

we need to let go of any form of m\a\p

The phrase “survival of the fittest” was actually coined in 1852 by Spencer, to describe human history—and ultimately, one assumes, to justify European genocide and colonialism..t It was only taken up by Darwin some ten years later, when, in The Origin of Species, he used it as a way of describing the forms of natural selection he had identified in his famous expedition to the Galapagos Islands. At the time Kropotkin was writing, in the 1880s and ’90s, Darwin’s ideas had been taken up by market liberals, most notoriously his “bulldog” Thomas Huxley, and the English naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, to propound what’s often called a “gladiatorial view” of natural history. Species duke it out like boxers in a ring or bond traders on a market floor; the strong prevail.

human history.. genocide.. colonialism

Kropotkin’s response—that cooperation is just as decisive a factor in natural selection than competition—was not entirely original. He never pretended that it was. .t

Still, we must give Kropotkin credit. He was much more than a simpler traveler. Such men had been successfully ignored by English Darwinians, in the heyday of empire—and, indeed, by almost everyone else. Kropotkin’s shot across the bows was not. In part, this was no doubt because he presented his scientific findings in a larger political context, in a form that made it impossible to deny just how much the reigning version of Darwinian science was itself not just an unconscious reflection of taken-for-granted liberal categories. (As Marx so famously put it, “The anatomy of Man is the key to the anatomy of the ape.”) It was an attempt to catapult the views of the commercial classes into universality. Darwinism at that time was still a conscious, militant political intervention to reshape common sense; a centrist insurgency, one might say, or perhaps better, a would-be centrist insurgency, since it was aimed at creating a new center. It was not yet common sense; it was an attempt to create a new universal common sense. If it was not, ultimately, completely successful, it was in a certain measure because of the very power of Kropotkin’s counterargument.

It is not difficult to see what made these liberal intellectuals so uneasy. Consider the famous passage from Mutual Aid, which really deserves to be quoted in full:

It is not love and not even sympathy upon which Society is based in mankind. It is the conscience — be it only at the stage of an instinct — of human solidarity. It is the unconscious recognition of the force that is borrowed by each man from the practice of mutual aid; of the close dependence of every one’s happiness upon the happiness of all’

i only add partial quote because that part resonated with:

in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows

The phrase “selfish gene” was not chosen fortuitously. Kropotkin had revealed behavior in the natural world that was exactly the opposite of selfishness: the entire game of Darwinists now is to find some reason, any reason, to continue to insist that even the most playful, loving, whimsical, heroically self-sacrificing, or sociable behavior is really selfish after all..t

Rich insights from Mutual Aid were at best ignored and, at worst, brushed off with a patronizing chuckle. There has been such a persistent tendency in Marxist scholarship, and by extension, left-leaning scholarship in general, of ridiculing Kropotkin’s “lifeboat socialism” and “naive utopianism” that a renowned biologist, Stephen Jay Gould, felt compelled to insist, in a famous essay, that “Kropotkin was no crackpot.”

(why ignored.. 2 reasons).. 2\ There’s another possible explanation though, one that has more to do with what might be called the “positionality” of both traditional Marxism and contemporary social theory. What is the role of a radical intellectual? Most intellectuals still do claim to be radicals of some sort or another. In theory they all agree with Marx that it’s not enough to understand the world; the point is to change it. But what does this actually mean in practice?..

intellect ness

In one important paragraph of Mutual Aid, Kropotkin offers a suggestion: the role of a radical scholar is to “restore the real proportion between conflict and union.” This might sound obscure, but he clarifies. Radical scholars are “bound to enter a minute analysis of the thousands of facts and faint indications accidentally preserved in the relics of the past; to interpret them with the aid of contemporary ethnology; and after having heard so much about what used to divide men, to reconstruct stone by stone the institutions which used to unite them.”

thurman interconnectedness lawwhen you understand interconnectedness it makes you more afraid of hating than of dying –

Kropotkin aimed to understand precisely what it was that an alienated worker had lost. But to integrate the two would mean to understand how even capitalism is ultimately founded on communism (“mutual aid”), even if it’s a communism it does not acknowledge; how communism is not an abstract, distant ideal, impossible to maintain, but a lived practical reality we all engage in daily, to different degrees, and that even factories could not operate without it — even if much of it operates on the sly, between the cracks, or shifts, or informally, or in what’s not said, or entirely subversively. It’s become fashionable lately to say that capitalism has entered a new phase in which it has become parasitical of forms of creative cooperation, largely on the internet. This is nonsense. It has always been so.

david & david on stupid savage

This is a worthy intellectual project. For some reason, almost no one is interested in carrying it out. Instead of examining how the relations of hierarchy and exploitation are reproduced, refused, and entangled with relations of mutual aid, how relations of care become continuous with relations of violence, but nonetheless hold together systems of violence so that they don’t entirely fall apart, both traditional Marxism and contemporary social theory have stubbornly dismissed pretty much anything suggestive of generosity, cooperation, or altruism as some kind of bourgeois illusion. Conflict and egoistic calculation proved to be more interesting than “union.” ..t

literacy and numeracy both elements of colonialism/control/enclosure.. we need to calculate differently and stop measuring things

(Similarly, it is fairly common for academic leftists to write about Carl Schmidt or Turgot, while is almost impossible to find those who write about Bakunin and Kondiaronk.) As Marx himself complained, under the capitalist mode of production, to exist is to accumulate for the last few decades we have heard little else than relentless exhortations on cynical strategies used to increase our respective (social, cultural, or material) capital.

testart storage law.. karl marx et al

These are framed as critiques. But if all you’re willing to talk about is that which you claim to stand against, if all you can imagine is what you claim to stand against, then in what sense do you actually stand against it?


no more defense ie: f & b & dm same law; moxie on democracy; et al

begs we go w offense .. ie: cure ios city.. than ongoing spinning of our wheels in defense..

esp when so much (all) data is from whales in sea world

Is Kropotkin relevant again? Well, obviously, Kropotkin was always relevant, but this book is being released in the belief that there is a new, radicalized generation, many of whom have never been exposed to these ideas directly, but who show all signs of being able to make a more clear-minded assessment of the global situation..t than their parents and grandparents, if only because they know that if they don’t, the world in store for them will soon become an absolute hellscape.

It’s already beginning to happen. The political relevance of ideas first espoused in Mutual Aid is being rediscovered by the new generations of social movements across the planet. The ongoing social revolution in Democratic Federation of Northeast Syria (Rojava) has been profoundly influenced by Kropotkin’s writings about social ecology and cooperative federalism, in part via the works of Murray Bookchin, in part by going back to the source, in large part too by drawing on their own Kurdish traditions and revolutionary experience.

murray bookchin; rojava’s third way

In the Global North, everywhere from various occupy movements to solidarity projects confronting the Covid-19 pandemic, mutual aid has emerged as a key phrase used by activists and mainstream journalists alike. At present, mutual aid is invoked in migrant solidarity mobilizations in Greece and in the organization of Zapatista society in Chiapas. Even scholars are rumored to occasionally use it.

When Mutual Aid was first released in 1902, there were few scientists courageous enough to challenge the idea that capitalism and nationalism were rooted in human nature, or that the authority of states was ultimately inviolable... t (never to be broken) Most who did were, indeed, written off as crackpots or, if they were too obviously important to be dismissed in this way, like Albert Einstein, as “eccentrics” whose political views had about as much significance as their unusual hairstyles. The rest of the world though is moving along. Will the scientists — even, possibly, the social scientists — eventually follow?

We write this introduction during a wave of global popular revolt against racism and state violence, as public authorities spew venom against “anarchists” in much the way they did in Kropotkin’s time. It seems a peculiarly fitting moment to raise a glass to that old “despiser of law and private property” who changed the face of science in ways that continue to affect us today. Pyotr Kropotkin’s scholarship was careful and colorful, insightful and revolutionary. It has also aged unusually well. Kropotkin’s rejection of both capitalism and bureaucratic socialism, his predictions of where the latter might lead, have been vindicated time and time again. . t Looking back at most of the arguments that raged in his day, there’s really no question about who was actually right.

Obviously, there are still those who virulently disagree on this count. Some are clinging to the dream of boarding ships long since passed. Others are well paid to think the things they do. . t

history ness to sinclair perpetuation law .. graeber rethink law.. et al

As for the authors of this modest introduction, many decades after first encountering this delightful book, we find ourselves — once again — surprised by just how deeply we agree with its central argument.

The only viable alternative to capitalist barbarism is stateless socialism, a product, as the great geographer never ceased to remind us, “of tendencies that are apparent now in the society” and that were “always, in some sense, imminent in the present.”

To create a new world, we can only start by rediscovering what is and his always been right before our eyes.. t

problem deep enough – what’s already there – for 8b people today – maté basic needs

begs a means to undo our hierarchical listening ie: 2 convers as infra

red flags: thinking we need prep, training, people telling people what to do


1\ undisturbed ecosystem (common\ing) can happen

2\ if we create a way to ground the chaos of 8b free people

A Mini-Bio of David Graeber, Written by David Himself

The first book I wrote was Lost People, an ethnography of Betafo (Arivonimamo), a community in Madagascar divided between descendants of nobles and slaves, and I still think it’s my best, because it’s really co-written by all the characters (in every sense of the term) who inhabit it.

lost people

The first to be published was Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value(2001), in part my homage to one of my most inspiring teachers at Chicago, Terry Turner. 

theory of value

I wrote a tiny little book called Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, which has doomed me ever since to be referred to as “the anarchist anthropologist,” even though the book largely argues that anarchist anthropology doesn’t and probably couldn’t really exist. (Please don’t do that

I also wrote a vast ethnography of direct action (Direct Action: An Ethnography) which hardly anyone ever reads, a collection of largely academic essays titled Possibilities, an edited volume called Constituent Imagination with Stevphen Shukaitis,

a book of political essays titled Revolutions in Reverse,

revolution in reverse


and Debt: The First 5000 Years, which virtually everyone seems to have read.

This was followed by The Democracy Project (which I actually wanted to call “As If We Were Already Free”), 

The Utopia of Rules (which I wanted to call “Three Essays on Bureaucracy”), 

utopia of rules

On Kings (a collection co-written with Marshall Sahlins),

on kings

and Bullshit Jobs: A Theory

bullshit jobs – dg

I am currently working with the archaeologist David Wengrow on a whole series of works completely reimagining the whole question of the origins of social inequality, starting with the way the question is framed to begin with.

david wengrow

david on dawn of everything

david & david on stupid savage

human history ness et al

After that, who knows?

I’ve continued to be actively engaged in social movements of one sort or another, insofar as I actually can, living in exile with a full-time job. I was involved in the initial meetings that helped set up Occupy Wall Street, for instance, and have been working with the Kurdish Freedom Movement in various capacities as well.

occupy wall street

rojava’s third way

Oh, and since this is a matter of some historical contention: no, I didn’t personally come up with the slogan “We are the 99%.” I did first suggest that we call ourselves the 99%. Then two Spanish indignados and a Greek anarchist added the “we” and later a Food-Not Bombs veteran put the “are” between them. And they say you can’t create something worthwhile by committee! I’d include their names but considering the way police intelligence has been coming after early OWS organizers, maybe it would be better not to.

99 and 1