David Graeber

By Simon Hewitt

In the sudden death of David Graeber the labour, and wider activist movement, has lost a true organic intellectual, a man who put his incisive intellect to powerful work in condemning the injustices and absurdities of contemporary capitalism, whilst always remaining a committed activist present at the grassroots of struggle against the system (he disliked the word ‘protest’, which ‘made it sound as though you had already lost’). An anthropologist, formed politically in the anarchist tradition and a member of the IWW union, he supported the Corbyn leadership of the Labour Party and contributed to the wider current of new left thinking around it. He was always generous in supporting strikes and occupations.

Graeber is a must-read author for the contemporary left. His choice of topics intersects with those aspects of life under neo-liberal capitalism which cause most pain whilst receiving least political attention: debt, bureaucracy, and the pervasiveness of ‘bullshit jobs’. It is on the last of these that we can perhaps learn most from Graeber. The sheer pointlessness and unfulfilingness of much work under capitalism doesn’t find enough recognition in the face of slogans about the right to work, understandable though these are, as coming out of the experience of unemployment. We need instead to talk about how we can reduce the amount of work people do, as a prelude to a society where people work to live rather than the opposite. David Graeber inspired lots of people to fight for such a society, to set free the human potential kept shackled by capitalism. His writings will continue to inspire.

Image: David Graeber at City Lights Books, Source: #ows @davidgraeber @citylightsbooks #occupysf #owswest #oo, Author: Steve Rhodes licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.