Meet the Smart Anthropologist Anarchist Who Helped Launch #OWS

Here’s something we don’t say every day: This long, well-written profile in Bloomberg BusinessWeek is inspiring. It’s about David Graeber, “the Anti-Leader of Occupy Wall Street,” and he is just the kind of smart anthropologist that Florida criminal/governor Rick Scott must’ve been thinking about during that whole “shut down the teaching of anthropology” idiocy.

Graeber is a 50-year-old anthropologist—among the brightest, some argue, of his generation—who made his name with innovative theories on exchange and value, exploring phenomena such as Iroquois wampum and the Kwakiutl potlatch. An American, he teaches at Goldsmiths, University of London. He’s also an anarchist and radical organizer, a veteran of many of the major left-wing demonstrations of the past decade: Quebec City and Genoa, the Republican National Convention protests in Philadelphia and New York, the World Economic Forum in New York in 2002, the London tuition protests earlier this year. This summer, Graeber was a key member of a small band of activists who quietly planned, then noisily carried out, the occupation of Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, providing the focal point for what has grown into an amorphous global movement known as Occupy Wall Street.

It’s a terrific profile, so hooray for reporter Drake Bennett for writing it, and for the Business Week editors for making it the cover story. (You don’t often see articles from Michael Bloomberg’s business-media empire with sympathetic portrayals of anti-capitalist camps named “Bloombergvilles.”)

And here is what Graeber writes in AdBusters magazine, about the Good News for Earth:

There is very good reason to believe that, in a generation or so, capitalism itself will no longer exist – most obviously, as ecologists keep reminding us, because it’s impossible to maintain an engine of perpetual growth forever on a finite planet, and the current form of capitalism doesn’t seem to be capable of generating the kind of vast technological breakthroughs and mobilizations that would be required for us to start finding and colonizing any other planets. Yet faced with the prospect of capitalism actually ending, the most common reaction – even from those who call themselves “progressives” – is simply fear. We cling to what exists because we can no longer imagine an alternative that wouldn’t be even worse.

How did we get here? My own suspicion is that we are looking at the final effects of the militarization of American capitalism itself. In fact, it could well be said that the last 30 years have seen the construction of a vast bureaucratic apparatus for the creation and maintenance of hopelessness, a giant machine designed, first and foremost, to destroy any sense of possible alternative futures ….

We are going to buy his book about the Evil of Debt (Debt: The First 5,000 Years) which contrary to the BusinessWeek article, we did see at the #OWS Zuccotti Park library.

About the author

A writer and editor of this website from 2006 to early 2012, Ken Layne is occassionally seen on Twitter and writes small books and is already haunting you from beyond (your) grave.

View all articles by Ken Layne
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    1. NeonTrotsky

      His new book should be required reading in every school. But of course it won't be, because he destroys Adam Smith.

  1. SayItWithWookies

    Capitalism — just like stupidity, religion, history and the world, its long-predicted death is right around the corner.

  2. Not_So_Much

    Sure, he seems pretty smart. But this book will fail miserably here in the U.S. if he doesn't add a whole bunch of pictures to it. Maybe a pop-up or two…

  3. GeorgiaBurning

    At last! An individual OWS leader for Fox news to attack. Over/under on a piece tying him to ACORN is three hours. I'm sure he's already been declared a Soros agent.

    1. AmericanBeauty

      Graeber has a PhD in anthro from University of Chicago, home base of eevil Milton Friedman, Leo Strauss, and a number of other conservatives.

      1. McRibzgood


        Hello Nobel prize committee.

        Yes my name is Baconzgood I have 2 candidates I'm going to recommend for nomination in the category of "OMG The Fucking Most Awsomest Thing Ever Conceived by Mankind!"

  4. SorosBot

    And here I thought capitalism will soon no longer exist because it will, within the next few decades, lead to the creation of the first true sentient AI and the consequent inevitable robot revolution and enslavement or genocide of humanity.

    1. Chichikovovich

      Not to mention "Anti-archs".

      #OWS is trying to take away your McDonalds! The whole thing is obviously Michelle's doing!

      1. BaldarTFlagass

        She's gonna drive Baconzgood from the fold, unless she waits till the McRib thing is gone…

  5. McRibzgood

    All anthropologist are anarchist but all anarchist aren't necessarily anthropologist. So now you know.

  6. OccupyFnChicken

    South Park is right. as long as there is desire, we're fucked. Let's see anyone turn that goddamn boat around.

    1. edgydrifter

      Well, the Buddhists tried to teach it out of us, but Kwai Chang Caine and Richard Gere were the only ones who payed attention in class.

  7. donner_froh

    Graeber is fireproof as far as attacks from Fox News and the rest of the gutter press. He is open and aboveboard on what he wants to accomplish and how he wants to do it–for example he makes clear that one of the aims of the Seattle/Genoa demonstrations was to destroy the IMF.

    I had no idea he was one of the intellectual godfathers of OWS but it certainly makes sense.

  8. ttommyunger

    I only hope Soros is behind him, because he obviously has no fucking money and never will have; Anarchists never do, if you don't believe it, check my bank account.

  9. FakaktaSouth

    Coolest resume fodder ever –

    Anarchist, Radical Organizer of: Quebec City and Genoa, The Republican National Convention protests in Philadelphia and New York, The World Economic Forum in New York in 2002, The London Tuition Protests

    If I had a resume, it'd be all "doesn't know html or even what it was til the other day, jazzercise"

  10. HistoriCat

    David Graeber likes to say that he had three goals for the year: promote his book, learn to drive, and launch a worldwide revolution. (emphasis added)

    Obviously not a Real American.

  11. DaRooster

    "There is very good reason to believe that, in a generation or so, capitalism itself will no longer exist…"

    My Uncle has preserved for me, a Red Barchetta… and I am gonna keep it.

  12. bureaucrap

    "it’s impossible to maintain an engine of perpetual growth forever on a finite planet…"

    So Graeber and Krugman should team up and lead Earth's invasion of Pandora. Finally, something we can ALL believe in.

  13. Goonemeritus

    Well resources may indeed be finite on our planet and the time we start experiencing that may well be here but that certainly does not mean and end to capitalism. We will just focus the mighty engine of our economy on making sure whatever is left goes to the right people.

        1. emmelemm

          Mea culpa. You might think I'm a sekrit conservative who doesn't understand the nuances of humor, but I plead that it's not true…

  14. Negropolis

    No snark, this David Graeber offends what I believe to be my 'liberal' sensibilities, by revealing them to be no such thing. He makes me feel uncomfortable and challenged – I find that to be a good and helpful thing.

    In fact, on a related note, it's been pulling me into reality. For instance, I've heard a lot of so-believed and so-called libeals bashing the OWS protestors, because their very apperance (i.e. "Dirty Fucking Hippies") offended their sensibilities of what the movement should be, and it's got me to see how shallow we can be. Here these men and women are, of all ages and persuasions and backgrounds literally using their bodies to physically occupy the public (and sometimes private) sphere, when they could be sitting comfortably in their living rooms like myself bitching and moaning about all the bad things in the world, and what do some of us give them? Criticism because they are "too hippyish" for our mainstream sensibilities. If you got a problem with these folks representing you (and you shouldn't), then get the fuck down to the squares, yourself, for just STFU. Really. Actually. Only "liberals" sit back and consicously and willfully self-sabotage over the silliest and shallowest of details.

    I'm no anarchist – at least, I don't think I am – but we should listen to more voices than we are currently listening to. I know that I don't want to be on the outside when the world comes falling down. I think we're finally being asked in a very real way to choose very real sides, and I hope I'm ready to answer the questions when it's put to me directly, whenever and wherever it may be.

    You know, I see people still incredulously asking "what do they want?" and I honestly think that if you haven't figured it out, by now, I'm not sure you'll get it, because you don't want to get it.

  15. DahBoner

    Anthropologist Anarchist…Zuccotti Park library.

    You know, like I always say, topless library babes make reading FUN again….

  16. hagajim

    Now not all economists believe in that concept…at least I know I don't…and I do practice some form the the art…though it is a bastardized one in which all economic decisions are based on the body politic and society…vs. that econometrics crap that takes all humanity out of it.

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