David Graeber

Anarchist, Anthropologist, Occupy Movement Organizer, and Anti-Bullshit Jobs Activist

February 12, 1961 — September 2, 2020

Biography :

Image from TheGuardian.com

David Rolfe Graeber was an American anthropologist and anarchist activist. His influential work in economic anthropology, particularly his books Debt: The First 5,000 Years (2011) and Bullshit Jobs (2018), and his leading role in the Occupy movement, earned him recognition as one of the foremost anthropologists and left-wing thinkers of his time.

Born in New York to a working-class Jewish family, Graeber studied at Purchase College and the University of Chicago, where he conducted ethnographic research in Madagascar under Marshall Sahlins and obtained his doctorate in 1996. He was an assistant professor at Yale University from 1998 to 2005, when the university controversially decided not to renew his contract before he was eligible for tenure. Unable to secure another position in the United States, he entered an "academic exile" in England, where he was a lecturer and reader at Goldsmiths' College from 2008 to 2013, and a professor at the London School of Economics from 2013.

In his early scholarship, Graeber specialized in theories of value (Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value, 2002), social hierarchy and political power (Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, 2004, Possibilities, 2007, On Kings, 2017), and the ethnography of Madagascar (Lost People, 2007). In the 2010s he turned to historical anthropology, producing his most well known book Debt: The First 5000 Years (2011), an exploration of the historical relationship between debt and social institutions, as well as a series of essays on the origins of social inequality in prehistory. In parallel, he developed critiques of bureaucracy and managerialism in contemporary capitalism, published in The Utopia of Rules (2015) and Bullshit Jobs (2018). He coined the concept of bullshit jobs in a 2013 essay that explored the proliferation of "paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence".

Image from FT.com

Although exposed to radical left politics from a young age, Graeber's direct involvement in activism began with the global justice movement of the 1990s. He attended protests against the 3rd Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001 and the World Economic Forum in New York in 2002, and later wrote an ethnography of the movement, Direct Action (2009). In 2011, he became well known as one of the leading figures of Occupy Wall Street and is credited with coining the slogan "We are the 99%". His later activism included interventions in support of the Rojava revolution in Syria, the British Labor Party under Jeremy Corbyn and Extinction Rebellion.

Graeber was married to artist Nika Dubrovsky. He died unexpectedly in September 2020, while on vacation in Venice. His last book, The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, co-written with archaeologist David Wengrow, was published posthumously in 2021.

(Source: Wikipedia.org.)

David Graeber, anthropologist and anarchist author of bestselling books on bureaucracy and economics including Bullshit Jobs: A Theory and Debt: The First 5,000 Years, has died aged 59.

On Thursday Graeber’s wife, the artist and writer Nika Dubrovsky, announced on Twitter that Graeber had died in hospital in Venice the previous day. The cause of death is not yet known.

Renowned for his biting and incisive writing about bureaucracy, politics and capitalism, Graeber was a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement and professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics (LSE) at the time of his death. His final book, The Dawn of Everything: a New History of Humanity, written with David Wengrow, will be published in autumn 2021.

Image from Purchase.Edu

The historian Rutger Bregman called Graeber “one of the greatest thinkers of our time and a phenomenal writer”, while the Guardian columnist Owen Jones called him “an intellectual giant, full of humanity, someone whose work inspired and encouraged and educated so many”. The Labor MP John McDonnell wrote: “I counted David as a much valued friend and ally. His iconoclastic research and writing opened us all up to fresh thinking and such innovative approaches to political activism. We will all miss him hugely.”

Tom Penn, Graeber’s editor at Penguin Random House, said the publishing house was “devastated” and called Graeber “a true radical, a pioneer in everything that he did”.

“David’s inspirational work has changed and shaped the way people understand the world. In his books, his constant, questing curiosity, his wry, sharp-eyed provoking of received nostrums shine through. So too, above all, does his unique ability to imagine a better world, borne out of his own deep and abiding humanity,” Penn said. “We are deeply honored to be his publisher, and we will all miss him: his kindness, his warmth, his wisdom, his friendship. His loss is incalculable, but his legacy is immense. His work and his spirit will live on.”

Born in New York in 1961 to two politically active parents – his father fought in the Spanish civil war with the International Brigades, while his mother was a member of the international Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union – Graeber first attracted academic attention for his teenage hobby of translating Mayan hieroglyphs. After studying anthropology at the State University of New York at Purchase and the University of Chicago, he won a prestigious Fulbright fellowship and spent two years doing anthropological fieldwork in Madagascar.

Image from TheGuardian.com

In 2005, Yale decided against renewing his contract a year before he would have secured tenure. Graeber suspected it was because of his politics; when more than 4,500 colleagues and students signed petitions supporting him, Yale instead offered him a year’s paid sabbatical, which he accepted and moved to the UK to work at Goldsmiths before joining LSE. “I guess I had two strikes against me,” he told the Guardian in 2015. “One, I seemed to be enjoying my work too much. Plus I’m from the wrong class: I come from a working-class background.”

His 2011 book Debt: The First 5,000 Years, made him famous. In it, Graeber explored the violence that lies behind all social relations based on money, and called for a wiping out of sovereign and consumer debts. While it divided critics, it attracted strong sales and praise from everyone from Thomas Piketty to Russell Brand.

Graeber followed it in 2013 with The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement, about his work with Occupy Wall Street, then The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy in 2015, which was inspired by his struggle to settle his mother’s affairs before she died. A 2013 article, On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs, led to Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, his 2018 book in which he argued that most white-collar jobs were meaningless and that technological advances had led to people working more, not less.

“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,” he told the Guardian in 2015 – even admitting that his own work could be meaningless: “There can be no objective measure of social value.”

Image from TheNation.com

An anarchist since his teens, Graeber was a supporter of the Kurdish freedom movement and the “remarkable democratic experiment” he could see in Rojava, an autonomous region in Syria. He became heavily involved in activism and politics in the late 90s. He was a pivotal figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011 – though he denied that he had come up with the slogan “We are the 99%”, for which he was frequently credited.

“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,” he wrote.

(Source: TheGuardian.com.)

From : Wikipedia.org / TheGuardian.com.

Works :

Author of Anarchism, Or The Revolutionary Movement Of The Twenty-first Century (November 30, 2003)

Author of Against Economics (December 31, 1969)

Author of Against Kamikaze Capitalism (December 31, 1969)

Author of America’s Kurdish Allies Risk being Wiped out – by Nato (December 31, 1969)

Author of Another World (December 31, 1969)

Author of Anthropology and the Rise of the Professional-managerial Class (December 31, 1969)

Author of Are You An Anarchist? The Answer May Surprise You! (December 31, 1969)

Author of Army of Altruists (December 31, 1969)

Author of Beyond Power/Knowledge (December 31, 1969)

Author of Bullshit Jobs (December 31, 1969)

Author of The Bully's Pulpit (December 31, 1969)

Author of Buncombe (December 31, 1969)

Author of Can’t Stop Believing (December 31, 1969)

Author of Caring too Much. That’s the Curse of the Working Classes (December 31, 1969)

Author of The Center Blows Itself Up (December 31, 1969)

Author of Communism (December 31, 1969)

Author of Concerning the Violent Peace-police (December 31, 1969)

Author of David Graeber Interview with ReadySteadyBook (December 31, 1969)

Author of David Graeber on Acting Like an Anarchist (December 31, 1969)

Author of David Graeber Studied 5,000 Years of Debt (December 31, 1969)

Author of Dead Zones of the Imagination (December 31, 1969)

Author of Debt (December 31, 1969)

Author of Debt (December 31, 1969)

Author of Despair Fatigue (December 31, 1969)

Author of Dickheads (December 31, 1969)

Author of Direct Action (December 31, 1969)

Author of The Divine Kingship of the Shilluk (December 31, 1969)

Author of The Elites Hate Momentum and the Corbynites — and I’ll tell You why (December 31, 1969)

Author of Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit (December 31, 1969)

Author of Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (December 31, 1969)

Author of Give It Away (December 31, 1969)

Author of Hope in Common (December 31, 1969)

Author of How to Change the course of Human History (December 31, 1969)

Author of I Didn’t Understand how Widespread Rape Was. Then the Penny Dropped (December 31, 1969)

Author of ‘I had to Guard an Empty Room’ (December 31, 1969)

Author of Introduction to Mutual Aid (December 31, 1969)

Author of It is value that Brings Universes into being (December 31, 1969)

Author of It Wasn’t a Tenure Case (December 31, 1969)

Author of The New Anarchists (December 31, 1969)

Author of Note Worthy: What is the Meaning of Money? (December 31, 1969)

Author of Occupy and Anarchism’s Gift of Democracy (December 31, 1969)

Author of Occupy Democracy is Not Considered Newsworthy. It should be (December 31, 1969)

Author of Occupy’s Anarchist Roots (December 31, 1969)

Author of Occupy’s Liberation from Liberalism: The Real Meaning of May Day (December 31, 1969)

Author of Occupy Wall Street Rediscovers the Radical Imagination (December 31, 1969)

Author of On the Invention of Money (December 31, 1969)

Author of On the Phenomenology of Giant Puppets (December 31, 1969)

Author of On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs: A Work Rant (December 31, 1969)

Author of Possibilities (December 31, 1969)

Author of A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse (December 31, 1969)

Author of Rebel Without A God (December 31, 1969)

Author of Revolution in Reverse (December 31, 1969)

Author of Revolution in Rojava (December 31, 1969)

Author of Roy Bhaskar Obituary (December 31, 1969)

Author of The Sadness of Post-Workerism (December 31, 1969)

Author of Savage Capitalism is Back – and it will Not Tame itself (December 31, 1969)

Author of The Shock of Victory (December 31, 1969)

Author of Soak the Rich (December 31, 1969)

Author of Students are right to March Against the Markets. Why Can’t Education be Free? (December 31, 1969)

Author of Super Position (December 31, 1969)

Author of There Never Was a West (December 31, 1969)

Author of Theresa May Recites Labour’s Lines, but Doesn’t Mean a Word of them (December 31, 1969)

Author of There’s No Need for all this Economic Sadomasochism (December 31, 1969)

Author of The Utopia of Rules (December 31, 1969)

Author of To Have Is to Owe (December 31, 1969)

Author of To Save the World, We’re going to have to Stop Working (December 31, 1969)

Author of Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value (December 31, 1969)

Author of The Truth is out (December 31, 1969)

Author of Turkey could Cut off Islamic State’s Supply Lines. So why Doesn’t It? (December 31, 1969)

Author of Turning Modes of Production Inside Out (December 31, 1969)

Author of The Twilight of Vanguardism (December 31, 1969)

Author of What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun? (December 31, 1969)

Author of Why are World Leaders Backing this Brutal Attack Against Kurdish Afrin? (December 31, 1969)

Author of Why is the World Ignoring the Revolutionary Kurds in Syria? (December 31, 1969)

Author of After the Jubilee (December 31, 1969)

Author of After the Pandemic, We Can’t Go Back to Sleep (December 31, 1969)

Author of Anarchism, Or The Revolutionary Movement Of The Twenty-first Century (December 31, 1969)

Author of Another Art World (December 31, 1969)

Author of Are You in a BS Job? (December 31, 1969)

Author of The Auto-ethnography that can Never be and the Activist Ethnography that Might be (December 31, 1969)

Author of Book Review: Ethnohistory: Emerging Histories in Madagascar. Jeffrey C. Kaufmann (December 31, 1969)

Author of Book Review: Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order. James Ferguson (December 31, 1969)

Author of Britain is Heading for another 2008 Crash: Here’s why (December 31, 1969)

Author of Consumption (December 31, 1969)

Author of Culture as Creative Refusal (December 31, 1969)

Author of Debt, Slavery and Our Idea of Freedom (December 31, 1969)

Author of Debt, Violence, and Impersonal Markets (December 31, 1969)

Author of The Disastrous Ordeal of 1987 (December 31, 1969)

Author of Exclusive Interview of David Graeber (December 31, 1969)

Author of The Failure of Gun Legislation in the Senate Tells Us we Need to Fight for Our Democracy (December 31, 1969)

Author of Fetishism as Social Creativity (December 31, 1969)

Author of Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit (December 31, 1969)

Author of From Managerial Feudalism to the Revolt of the Caring Classes (December 31, 1969)

Author of HAU Apology (December 31, 1969)

Author of ‘I had to Guard an Empty Room’ (December 31, 1969)

Author of Introduction to Mutual Aid (December 31, 1969)

Author of Is Your Job Bullshit? (December 31, 1969)

Author of Manners, Deference, and Private Property (December 31, 1969)

Author of “Many Seasons Ago” (December 31, 1969)

Author of The More Your Job Helps Others, The Less You Get Paid (December 31, 1969)

Author of Neoliberalism (December 31, 1969)

Author of New Police Strategy in New York – Sexual Assault (December 31, 1969)

Author of Notes on Desire (December 31, 1969)

Author of “No. This is a Genuine Revolution” (December 31, 1969)

Author of Occupy Everything (December 31, 1969)

Author of On Social Currencies and Human Economies (December 31, 1969)

Author of On the Moral Grounds of Economic Relations (December 31, 1969)

Author of Painful Memories (December 31, 1969)

Author of The Politics of Magic (December 31, 1969)

Author of Punching the Clock (December 31, 1969)

Author of Radical Alterity is Just another Way of saying “reality” (December 31, 1969)

Author of The Rebirth of Anarchism in North America, 1957–2007 (December 31, 1969)

Author of Reflections on Reflections (December 31, 1969)

Author of Remarks on Wittgenstein’s Remarks on Frazer (December 31, 1969)

Author of Reply to Brad DeLong (December 31, 1969)

Author of A Response to Anastasia Piliavsky’s The Wrong Kind of Freedom? (December 31, 1969)

Author of The Return of Ethnographic Theory (December 31, 1969)

Author of The Sword, the Sponge and the Paradox of Performativity (December 31, 1969)

Author of Syria, Anarchism & Visiting Rojava (December 31, 1969)

Author of The Utopia of Rules (December 31, 1969)

Author of Trump Talks About Wrapping up the Imperial Program (December 31, 1969)

Author of Unfreezing the Ice Age (December 31, 1969)

Author of Value (December 31, 1969)

Author of Value as the Importance of Actions (December 31, 1969)

Author of Value, Politics and Democracy in the United States (December 31, 1969)

Author of The Very Idea of Consumption (December 31, 1969)

Author of Why We Founded the Yes Women, an Art Group Demanding Justice for Divorcées in the Former East Germany (December 31, 1969)

Chronology :

February 12, 1961 : David Graeber's Birth Day.
September 02, 2020 : David Graeber's Death Day.
April 30, 2020 : David Graeber's Added.
February 21, 2022 : David Graeber's Updated.

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