graeber values law

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graeber values law: ‘values are valuable because they cannot be compared with anything – David Graeber


from David Graeber‘s bs jobs:


what money brings into the picture is the ability to make precise quantitative comparisons..

the very cancer/violence of us.. ie: marsh exchange law

this might sound obvious, but the implications are profound, it means the market value of commodity is, precisely, the degree to which it can be compared to (and hence, exchanged for) something else..

mona lisa law

this is exactly what is missing in the domain of ‘values’ .. it might sometimes be possible to argue that one work of art is more beautiful, or one religious devotee more pious.. but it would be bizarre to ask how much more…. this monk is 5x more pious that than one.. this rembrandt is 2x lovely as that monet..  it would be if anything even more absurd to try to come up w a mathematical formula to calculate just how much it would be legitimate to neglect one’s family in pursuit of art, or break the law in the name of social justice..  obviously people do make such decisions all the time, but by defn, they cannot be quantified..

in fact, one could even further say that is precisely the key to their value.  just as commodities have econ ‘value’ because they can be compared precisely w other commodities, ‘values’ are valuable because they cannot be compared w anything..t.. they are each considered unique, incommensurable, in a word .. priceless..

mona lisa law


the more automation proceeds, the more it should be obvious that actual value emerges from the caring element of work.. (ie: workers in ticket offices in london underground aren’t there to take tickets but to find lost children and talk down drunks).. yet this leads to another problem. the caring value of work would appear to be precisely that element in labor that cannot be quantified..t

that’s the solution.. we have to stop measuring..


much of the bs-ization of real jobs, i would say, and much of the reason for the expansion of bs sector more generally, is a direct result of the desire to quantify the unquantifiable..t


the reason current allocation of labor looks the way it does, then has nothing to do w economics or even human nature.. it’s ultimately political..  there was no reason we had to try to quantify the value of caring labor..  there is no real reason we have to continue to do so. we could stop..t

huge.. stop measuring..

as it could be..


instrumental and intrinsic value (rabbit holed to while thinking on our addiction to condition\ality

The word “value” is both a verb and a noun, each with multiple meanings. But its root meaning always involves social judgments of qualities such as goodness, worth, truth, justice, beauty. The word names either the rational criterion applied when judging, or results of judging, the presence of such qualities

graeber values lawjust as commodities have econ ‘value’ because they can be compared precisely w other commodities, ‘values’ are valuable because they cannot be compared w anything

so too.. not judged then.. right?.. not counted.. accounted for.. rather unconditional



generative value

david on human economies