graeber and big questions

adding page via this tweet from simona ferlini:

1/ What makes #DavidGraeber work so important is that he dared to ask the big questions: why, and under which conditions, labour has a value? What is debt? What is society? What are humans, in what ways are they the same, in what ways are they different?

Original Tweet:

2/ These are philosophical questions, and philosophers usually answer them through “thought experiments”, like Rousseau did in his “Origins of inequality”. We stopped answering this way, and we did well, but we did so by stopping altogether to ask the big questions.

same day re re re re read this in david graeber‘s theory of value:

151 – ch 6 – marcel mauss revisited

i believe mauss’ theoretical corpus is the single most important in the history of anthropology. he was a man with a remarkable knack for asking all the most interesting questions..

imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls (the most interesting – aka: legit questions/curiosity).. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for..

what the world needs most is the energy of 8b alive people


gift-giving is a perfect example of this sort of thing: because it is a *purely voluntary act (or, anyway, can be) that nonetheless creates a sense of **obligation…… central question he intends to answer: in primitive or archaic societies what is the principle whereby the gift received has to be repaid?.. what force is there in the thing given which compels the recipient to make a return?

principle 1\ *not purely voluntary.. rather.. voluntary compliance.. principle 2\ if creates sense of *obligation.. not freely given .. but rather manufactured gift\ness .. so.. if assuming gift giving creates sense of obligation.. question is really one for whales.. not legit free people.. and irrelevant to human being


most of mauss’ essays were works in progress.. prelim reports on ongoing projects of research.. he spent the last half of his life surrounded by uncomplete projects.. 

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..t

any form of m\a\p as the death of us.. huge

p. 163 – marx’s work consists of a brilliant and sustained critique of capitalism.. he carefully avoided speculating about what a more just society would be like..  mauss’ instincts were quite the opposite: he was much less interested in understanding the dynamics of capitalism than in trying to understand – and create – something that might stand outside it.. t

huge – need: legit alt

begs we org around legit needs

ie: a nother way


notes/quotes from article linked from simona’s tweet – 2011 post from savage minds after interview they had w david – Can We Still Write Big Question Sorts of Books?:

Are existing economic arrangements really, as we’ve been told for so long, the only possible ones?”.. t

let’s try oikos (the economy our souls crave).. ‘i should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.’ – gaston bachelard, the poetics of space

Of all the models I considered, the most amenable turned out to be the approach adopted by Marcel Mauss. This might seem odd. especially because Mauss never actually wrote a book; he’s mainly famous for a series of essays.

to p 155 in theory of value above.. uncomplete/process ness et al

Mauss had an uncanny ability to ask the right questions—often, questions he was the first to pose, and which have become mainstays of theoretical debate ever since. His was also an appealing model because Mauss was both a serious, committed activist (he was especially active in the French cooperative movement), and a scholar of remarkable erudition. His problem—and this, I suspect, is why he never did write a proper book, despite numerous attempts—was that he was also almost unimaginably disorganized, and therefore, terrible at exposition. I suspect if alive today he would have been quickly diagnosed with severe ADD..t

and to that i’d add what’s (not) normal.. ie: higashida autism law; crazywise (doc); .. et al

It struck me that if one develops this strain, and makes it explicit, the larger structure still works:.. t and this is precisely how I organized the debt book. First I set out the principles that one can assume will always be at play. Examples of these are: the three moral logics that can be appealed to in economic transactions—which I labeled as “communism” (after Mauss), “exchange,” and “hierarchy”—or the dual nature of money (after Keith Hart), as simultaneously commodity and social relation (or more specifically, virtual credit system.) Then I moved from ethnographic comparison to constructing a grand historical narrative, though in my case, demonstrating more that history seems to follow a pattern of alternating cycles dominated by virtual credit money, and bullion money, than that it’s going in any particular overall direction.

even deeper/bigger (aka: ginormous – small).. on the need to go like ie: gillis on small scale ness – no scale at which it does not apply

How to write the sort of book one wishes Mauss would have written, rather than the sort of difficult, convoluted, frequently disorganized essays he actually did?

At least in the English-speaking world, there have been two dominant approaches taken by scholars trying to reach a broader audience: 1\ an accessible and breezy style, much easier to understand than ordinary academic prose, but, rather than seriously challenging one’s audiences’ assumptions, essentially provides them with reasons they never would have thought of to continue to believe what they already assume to be true.  2\ challenge as many common-sense assumptions as possible, but also, to do it in a style even more obscure than ordinary academic writing—so obscure, in fact, that its very obscurity generates a kind of charismatic authority, as devotees spend untold hours of their lives arguing with one another about what their favorite Great Thinker might have actually been on about.

huge.. spot on.. sucking our energies

Well, the book is my answer. An accessible work, written in plain English, that actually does try to systematically challenge common sense assumptions. The problem is that merely trying to write accessibly isn’t enough. I had to confront any number of other issues both about style and content, and some of the results are worth contemplating – or at least passing on. Here are three things I think I learned: 1\ jokes and little stories, often off-set like quotes, are helpful 2\ mainstream audiences don’t care what other scholar is wrong 3\ footnotes: back up your statements with extensive, detailed references that actually do say what you think they say.