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Thu Sep 3, 2020, 12:50 PM

David Graeber, anthropologist and author of Bullshit Jobs, dies aged 59

Source: The Guardian

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 Wengrove, will be published in autumn 2021.

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 Labour 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.”

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/sep/03/david-graeber-anthropologist-and-author-of-bullshit-jobs-dies-aged-59

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Reply David Graeber, anthropologist and author of Bullshit Jobs, dies aged 59 (Original post)
PETRUS Sep 2020 OP
mdelaguna Sep 2020 #1
erronis Sep 2020 #2
CatLady78 Sep 2020 #5
CatLady78 Sep 2020 #3
mahina Sep 2020 #4
klook Sep 2020 #6
Warpy Sep 2020 #7
BumRushDaShow Sep 2020 #10
Warpy Sep 2020 #12
BumRushDaShow Sep 2020 #13
burrowowl Sep 2020 #15
appalachiablue Sep 2020 #17
CatLady78 Sep 2020 #18
Warpy Sep 2020 #20
hunter Sep 2020 #22
Warpy Sep 2020 #23
greenjar_01 Sep 2020 #8
Stargleamer Sep 2020 #9
kag Sep 2020 #11
appalachiablue Sep 2020 #14
PETRUS Sep 2020 #16
appalachiablue Sep 2020 #29
reACTIONary Sep 2020 #26
JonLP24 Sep 2020 #19
betsuni Sep 2020 #21
reACTIONary Sep 2020 #25
PETRUS Sep 2020 #27
betsuni Sep 2020 #28
PETRUS Sep 2020 #30
betsuni Sep 6 #31
PETRUS Sep 8 #32
reACTIONary Sep 2020 #24

Response to PETRUS (Original post)

Thu Sep 3, 2020, 01:15 PM

1. An unfathomable loss

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Response to PETRUS (Original post)

Thu Sep 3, 2020, 01:39 PM

2. An incredible polymath. This is the type of person the world needs more of.

Maybe what the old "liberal arts" tried to teach but obviously not well in the modern educational system.

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Response to erronis (Reply #2)

Thu Sep 3, 2020, 02:03 PM

5. Indeed

To be honest, I have only read one thing from Graeber but it seemed pretty spot on.

On a related note, I recently discovered this academic Nicholas Carr...or at any rate some of his work...it was truly eye-opening...

https://www.wired.com/2010/05/ff-nicholas-carr/

http://www.roughtype.com/

I have been struggling more with work than ever since I worked at this absolutely shitty school in CA..Carr's article on how the web shatters focus was illuminating. I shudder when I see Facebook and the like dabble in education of all things. Tech is now deeply anti-intellectual...explains a lot about the world in some ways.

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Response to PETRUS (Original post)

Thu Sep 3, 2020, 01:52 PM

3. .nt

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Response to PETRUS (Original post)


Response to PETRUS (Original post)

Thu Sep 3, 2020, 02:07 PM

6. Very sad news.

Bullshit Jobs really resonated with me, since I’ve had a few of them. Graeber’s writing and activism are a great and lasting force for good in the world.

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Response to PETRUS (Original post)

Thu Sep 3, 2020, 02:21 PM

7. I quibbled slightly with "Bullshit Jobs" because I find duct tapers absolutely vital

to making incompetently designed things run at all, if not smoothly. We're surrounded by incompetently designed equipment and systems and if duct tapers didn't exist, we'd all be saying fuck it and moving into tents.

I'd replace them with Cheerleaders: motivational speakers, people who design and run corporate team building exercises, and most advertisers. Bullshit, all of them, but Graeber doesn't seem to have encountered many of them.

I shall miss reading his next book, my eyes won't be up to it and I doubt I'll live long enough to get it on audio.

RIP, you didn't tolerate corporate fools any more gracefully than I ever did but you got paid for it. You've earned a rest.

(Oh, and the Dow is down over 900 now, if you're in the market, tonight is not a good night to tune in to the business reports)

Edit: the market is dropping like a rock

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Response to Warpy (Reply #7)

Thu Sep 3, 2020, 03:28 PM

10. "I'd replace them with Cheerleaders: motivational speakers"

OMG YES! And don't forget the "Coaches" that the "Cheerleaders" become when not "on the team-building promotional circuit, handing out 360 assessments like candy".

And yup, the previously ecstatic business media, who figured the recession was all but over, have been crying in their take-out containers this afternoon (at the close, Dow down 808, NASDAQ down almost 600, wiping out a week's worth of gains, & S&P down 126).

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Response to BumRushDaShow (Reply #10)

Thu Sep 3, 2020, 03:42 PM

12. I remember a party in the mid 70s

during which earnest young thing after earnest young thing kept coming up to me and saying "I'm so and so and I'm a professional" and I kept waiting for them to finish the sentence. You know, pipefitter? Stevedore?

That they had all thought they'd finished the sentence introduced me to the bullshit job, one these people were going to work very hard doing but which produced nothing useful and defied description of what was involved in doing it.

So when that book came out, I had to laugh at the title.

It didn't help that I had been bullied into drinking the last G&T of my life and I had a roaring migraine from it. I do count it as a major triumph that I didn't ask any of them to finish the sentence.

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Response to Warpy (Reply #12)

Thu Sep 3, 2020, 03:52 PM

13. Weird Al Yankovic summed it up nicely



I call it "verbal vomit", which is part and parcel for those in "bullshit jobs".

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Response to BumRushDaShow (Reply #13)

Thu Sep 3, 2020, 07:25 PM

15. Excellent!

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Response to BumRushDaShow (Reply #13)

Fri Sep 4, 2020, 12:15 AM

17. +1 Gonna watch this again, didn't know Al was attuned so well.

Does this hit home hard with a no. of 'pros' I've been around in the last 20+ years but not much since.

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Response to Warpy (Reply #7)

Fri Sep 4, 2020, 04:13 AM

18. Don't forget PR for say Facebook, Exxon etc.

For instance, whenever a story breaks about the creepy and unethical shit Facebook does, it is someone's job to go out there and pitch a phony "education" program as "philanthropy".

They probably do a cost-benefit analysis. You calculate the lowest amount you need to donate to the crap charities you run in order to offset your lousy image. It might work with the most gullible people out there.

I love corporate pr pushes for "education". The very people who benefit the most from a largely ignorant populace want to equip the same with a set of menial skills. Not to mention programming them with inane visions of what a meritocracy supposedly looks like.

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Response to CatLady78 (Reply #18)

Fri Sep 4, 2020, 06:29 AM

20. I kind of lumped PR flacks in with admen

since that's basically what they are. Oh, and people who write mission statements. All cheerleaders.

The premise of the bullshit job is that it's there to make the guys at the top feel powerful. It's why cost cutting is done on the backs of the people who actually create the products and services, and never on the bullshitters. The bullshitters are the new courtiers, the ladies in waiting, the clean and coiffed useless people who make the kings feel better about the accident of birth that put them where they are. The peasants are a grubby lot, hard work meaning there's not a good manicure among them, so they're expendable.

Then when they complain that their miserly dole is running out, you blame them for having the wrong education, as if the right education without the right parentage would ever qualify them for a bullshit job.

It's quite a racket.

Graeber hit a nerve when he came out with that book because people doing bullshit jobs know they're doing bullshit jobs and most of them are miserable, they would much prefer to do something useful but doing something useful doesn't pay.

It's why his UBI solution is really the appropriate one. People who are miserable in bullshit jobs could afford to quit them earlier, making way for fresh faced young things who might buy into the corporate glam for a few years, until they realize it's bullshit. Freed bullshitters would get bored and start making pottery or custom shoes or gourmet street food and that would improve everybody's lives. Staying in the bullshit jobs until the corporate expiration date of 55 serves no one. The time for the UBI is now.

ETA: I should fess up here, I had the parentage and upbringing that qualified me for bullshit jobs and I tried one or two when I got desperate, but I could never stomach them, so I ended up being a nurse. My parents thought it was a comedown in life, but they had to admit it came in very handy during their final years.

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Response to Warpy (Reply #20)

Fri Sep 4, 2020, 07:24 AM

22. I think we should pay people to experiment with lifestyles having a small environmental footprint.

We'd judge the success of those experiments in terms of happiness, not productivity or any other bullshit.

Successful low environmental footprint lifestyles would be an example to others.

Economic "productivity" as it is now described isn't productivity at all. It is, in fact, a direct measure of the damage we are doing to the earth's natural environment and our own human spirit.

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Response to hunter (Reply #22)

Fri Sep 4, 2020, 08:15 AM

23. Valid points but consider the UBI would keep things small scale

People would be free to discover what they really want to do.

Moralists are terrified that without busywork and bullshit jobs and Puritan work ethic guilt, people will sink into dissipation. Well, the people who find sinking into dissipation attractive are already doing it, so there would be no net loss, only a gain as they left jobs they were bad at to the point of fouling everybody else up.

I don't know about you, but I've had enough of the joyless Puritanism, People will find jobs to do that both interest them and pass the time, including standing on street corners pushing joyless Puritanism.

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Response to PETRUS (Original post)

Thu Sep 3, 2020, 02:37 PM

8. Graeber's work is brilliant and life-changing for so many of us

He was also one of the most committed, engaged, and genuinely decent people working as a public intellectual today. This is an incalculable loss.

I'm truly saddened. If you haven't read Debt: The First 5000 Years, get on it. Bullshit Jobs is also magnificent.

Heartbreaking.

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Response to PETRUS (Original post)

Thu Sep 3, 2020, 02:49 PM

9. His "Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology" looks like it is

available for free viewing: http://abahlali.org/files/Graeber.pdf

He seems like an interesting writer, worth checking out.

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Response to PETRUS (Original post)

Thu Sep 3, 2020, 03:40 PM

11. My son introduced me to Graeber's work.

He has been a big fan for a couple of years now. I called this morning and gave him the news. He was, as expected, very sad about it. He had ambitions of meeting Graeber some day, possibly through the same kind of work.

I just finished listening to Debt: the First 5,000 Years for the second time. It's excellent.

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Response to PETRUS (Original post)

Thu Sep 3, 2020, 06:25 PM

14. Sorry, I want to learn more about him & his work.

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Response to appalachiablue (Reply #14)

Thu Sep 3, 2020, 10:09 PM

16. I had a lot of respect for his intellect and his point of view.

I'm not sure where to suggest you begin. The first thing of his I read was "Debt: The First 5,000 Years." iIt was well worth the time. The "Bullshit Jobs" book mentioned in the title began as an essay, which you could probably find online somewhere, along with other examples of his writing and thought. His friend and colleague Jason Hickel (for whom I also have enormous respect) said "His analysis was as clear as it was courageous. He was unflinching and incorruptible. There was no myth he would not question, no hegemony he would not expose. He saw through every ruse that the powerful have going." As far as I'm concerned, he was one of the good ones.

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Response to PETRUS (Reply #16)

Sat Sep 5, 2020, 10:55 AM

29. Graeber looked familiar when I read the news, and

I just learned more about him and his work from reading, including this new piece by RJ Eskow, former health ins. exec., with Social Security Works, jazz musician and more. And I think Rutger Bregman, one of Graeber's admirers is fantastic.

Graeber was involved in Occupy of course which might be how I recognized him. Eskow has been involved in Debt Jubilee and student debt relief which I've supported for some time. What a thinker Graeber was, perfect for these times and it's a terrible loss of an activitist and academic with ideas and approaches we need.

Eskow also did an interview with Graber in 2018 on his Zero Hour show that I just watched and it covered the basics of the rise of BS jobs quite well. For some time I was around several business execs in the BS jobs chain in finance mostly and a few employed at the highest levels selling MBS, mortgage backed securities to WS during the go go 90s and 2000s. Wretched stuff. Thanks again for posting about David's loss far too early, death in Venice.

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/09/04/david-graeber-1961-2020-history-living-weapon

PS One of my favorite parts of their interview exchange was how so many young people, at a time in life when they're most energetic and creative are often unable to pursuw art, progressive ideas and enterprises because of the need to take BS jobs to survive in this economy. What if John Lennon hadn't the time or talent to write and perform music, and instead worked in a place stacking boxes.

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Response to appalachiablue (Reply #14)

Fri Sep 4, 2020, 10:21 AM

26. Easy, free introduction...

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Response to PETRUS (Original post)

Fri Sep 4, 2020, 04:36 AM

19. I just came across this video of him




I wish I knew him. He seems like a good man. RIP.

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Response to PETRUS (Original post)

Fri Sep 4, 2020, 07:08 AM

21. I read a little of his writing about anarchism and NO.

Who is responsible for most of the gathering and preparing of food, making clothing and cleaning them, taking care of children and the elderly, taking care of everyday life? Women. Anarchism is bullshit. A man thing. An anthropologist should know this.

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Response to betsuni (Reply #21)

Fri Sep 4, 2020, 10:16 AM

25. +100 nt

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Response to betsuni (Reply #21)

Fri Sep 4, 2020, 03:58 PM

27. Hey

You might not be interested in having this conversation, but if you are, I'm curious what you think anarchism is or what you think David Graeber stood for. I ask because I haven't encountered anything in anarchist philosophy (or David Graeber's writing) that helps me make sense of your reaction. Are you willing to educate me on your point of view, or explain where your comment comes from?

Thanks.

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Response to PETRUS (Reply #27)

Sat Sep 5, 2020, 05:50 AM

28. Graeber: "Anarchism is democracy without the government."

Doesn't work because this:



Will never work in the U.S.

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Response to betsuni (Reply #28)

Sat Sep 5, 2020, 02:06 PM

30. Thanks for the reply.

I appreciate it.

Right now I can't watch the video, but I gather the point you're making here is that anarchism is an unrealistic proposition? If so, that's a criticism I understand (and basically agree with, although I have a response, which I'll get to).

What confuses me about your first reply was its gendered nature. I'm not anything like an expert on anarchism (I've read a few books and essays, that's all), but my impressions are that it's inherently feminist. Anarchism opposes social hierarchy and the domination of individuals and groups by other individuals and groups, and supports the dignity, autonomy, and the right of self-determination for all people (i.e., regardless of sex or gender), as I understand it. It seems you see it differently, and I'm still curious about that. I'm male, and if I have a blind spot on this issue, I'd just as soon address it.

Regarding the impracticality of anarchism: As I mentioned, I'm more or less in agreement, but I think that's missing the point. The best way I can think of to explain myself is to offer an analogy. I've come to regard anarchism similarly to the way I regard pacifism. Do people really believe a world free of violence and war is possible? From where I sit, that doesn't seem achievable. In fact, I'd say a world without violence is even more far-fetched than the idea of democracy without government. There are numerous examples of self-organizing communities that have persisted for generations without government (although not in within the context of an industrial civilization), whereas I'm not sure it would be nearly as easy to find examples of a place where violence was absent for a significant length of time. But efforts to minimize violence or prevent or end a war sometimes bear fruit, and I think there's value in pointing out that violence is wrong. Similarly, I think efforts to challenge social hierarchies and advance the moral principles of autonomy, voluntary association, self-organization, mutual aid, and democracy are worthwhile.

Thanks again! I hope you're having a good weekend.

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Response to PETRUS (Reply #30)

Sun Sep 6, 2020, 08:30 AM

31. The video is Larry David's George character in "Seinfeld" constantly berating people for not

Last edited Sun Sep 6, 2020, 03:07 PM - Edit history (1)

following social rules, as does Larry David's character in "Curb Your Enthusiasm." WE HAVE A SOCIETY HERE.

Americans hate to be told what to do and are obsessed with individuality and "freedom." Sense of society is weak. Greed and selfishness is encouraged, that's just how the culture turned out. Can't leave a bicycle unlocked or a package outside your door without it being stolen. Government is necessary. The U.S. is bizarre in that many Americans hate government because they've been told by right-wing media that government is the enemy, and that both sides are the same and corrupt. And then people call the police on black people doing normal things, and white guys walk around with big guns because they think they are the authorities.

About the gendered thing. Not sure I can explain. Alice Waters, in her memoir "Coming To My Senses," describes her politically active college years during the sixties spent in the kitchen cooking for her friends gathered for serious political discussions. She didn't want to get arrested for protesting, loved cooking for her friends. Writer Laurie Colwin joined college activists who took over a building during the sixties; was assigned to make sandwiches. Somebody has to buy toilet paper and make something to eat, and those people are rarely those who yammer on about anarchism and movements and revolution.

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Response to betsuni (Reply #31)

Tue Sep 8, 2020, 02:22 PM

32. Well, I have no reason to argue with any of that.

I think you're basically right. A few more thoughts:

It's true that the kind of sexism and sidelining of women that you're describing was a problem among lefty activists in the '60s. I don't mean this as a defense, but it's my impression that it wasn't any worse that what it was like in other areas of life at the time (schools, churches, workplaces, etc.). It's particularly infuriating in this context (and smacks of hypocrisy), because we're talking about people who claimed to be standing up for the oppressed and marginalized. I think there's been progress on this front, particularly among left-leaning activist types. Still, it's a legitimate complaint.

The other day. I was reading the comments section on a blog, and someone posted "We are also told that government is ‘not a solution, but a problem’. Well, government is neutral, like a hammer, it is a tool to achieve a political end." That's not too far from my point of view. In other words, I don't categorically reject "government" the way (some? all?) committed anarchists do. On the other hand, I'm not at all hostile to an anarchist point of view. Some of the people who claim to be on board with anarchism are infiltrators/saboteurs (needless to say, they are not my friends), and others are angry people without anything I'd call a coherent political philosophy. But the people who are sincere and have thought deeply about anarchism tend to be on the correct side of pretty much all political struggles, in my opinion. There's a Yale professor named James Scott whose thinking I appreciate. I've read three of his books, one of which is entitled "Two Cheers for Anarchism." There's a handy quote on his wiki page: "Lacking a comprehensive anarchist worldview and philosophy, and in any case wary of nomothetic ways of seeing, I am making a case for a sort of anarchist squint. What I aim to show is that if you put on anarchist glasses and look at the history of popular movements, revolutions, ordinary politics, and the state from that angle, certain insights will appear that are obscured from almost any other angle. It will also become apparent that anarchist principles are active in the aspirations and political action of people who have never heard of anarchism or anarchist philosophy." I agree with him on that. I also think that the human impulse (and capacity) to pull together for the common good is pretty strong. There's a book by Rebecca Solnit called "A Paradise Built in Hell." Her book describes groups of people who worked together to get things done following some kind of disaster, and she makes a point of examining cases where the goverment was (at least temporarily) effectively absent.

Anyway, thanks again for the polite conversation.



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Response to PETRUS (Original post)

Fri Sep 4, 2020, 10:15 AM

24. Y A A...

Yet Another Anarchist. When is they going to give up?

He seems to have left out one category of bullshit job: Anarcho-Syndicalist Academic.

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