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Uma (in)certa antropologia


Notas sobre o tempo, o clima e a diferena

Arquivo da tag: David Graeber


David Graeber: Sobre o Fenmeno dos
Empregos deMerda
15/01/2014

Uncategorized

Capitalismo, Consumismo, David Graeber, Trabalho

Um texto do antroplogo David Graeber que explica porque que em vez de diminuir, o horrio de trabalho
no pra de crescer.

Nos ltimos anos na Europa e nos Estados Unidos o horrio de trabalho tem vindo a aumentar. Em Portugal a
jornada de trabalho para a Funo Pblica amentou das 35 para as 40 horas perante a passividade quase total
dos sindicatos oficiais. Em Espanha, a CNT e a CGT reivindicam h muito as 30 horas semanais. H pouco mais
de 80 anos os economistas acreditavam que na viragem do sculo XX para o XXI, devido aos progressos tecnolgicos (que continuam a verificar-se) o tempo de trabalho dirio no ultrapassaria as 3 ou as 4 horas. O antroplogo anarquista e membro do Occupy Wall Street, David Graeber, explica a inutilidade dos empregos (e dos trabalhos) de merda criados nas ltimas dcadas. Que s servem para nos prender aos locais de trabalho, no para produzir ou fazer quaisquer trabalhos socialmente relevantes.
David Graeber
No ano de 1930 John Maynard Keynes previu que, at ao final do sculo XX, a tecnologia teria avanado o su-

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ficiente para que pases como a Gr-Bretanha ou os Estados Unidos pudessem implementar a semana laboral de 15 horas. No faltam motivos para acreditar que tinha razo, dado que a nossa tecnologia actual o
permitiria. E, no entanto, isso no aconteceu. Em vez disso, a tecnologia inventou novas formas para que trabalhemos mais. A fim de alcanar este objectivo, foram criados novos trabalhos, que no tm, efectivamente, nenhum sentido. Enormes quantidades de pessoas, especialmente na Europa e nos Estados Unidos, passam toda a sua vida profissional na execuo de tarefas que, no fundo, consideram completamente desnecessrias. uma situao que provoca um dano moral e espiritual profundo. uma cicatriz que marca a nossa alma colectiva. Mas quase ningum fala disso.
Por que que nunca se materializou a utopia prometida por Keynes uma utopia ainda aguardada com
grande expectativa nos anos 60? A explicao mais generalizada hoje em dia que Keynes no soube prever
o aumento massivo do Consumismo. Face alternativa entre menos horas de trabalho ou mais brinquedos e
prazeres, teramos escolhido colectivamente a segunda opo. uma fbula muito bonita, mas basta apenas um momento de reflexo para vermos que isso no pode ser realmente verdade. De facto temos assistido criao de uma variedade infinita de novos empregos e indstrias, desde a dcada de 20, mas muito
poucos tm alguma coisa a ver com a produo e distribuio de sushi, iPhones ou de calado desportivo de
moda.
Ento, quais so, precisamente, esses novos postos de trabalho? Um relatrio comparando o emprego nos
EUA entre 1910 e 2000, d-nos uma imagem muito clara (que, sublinho se v praticamente reflectida no Reino Unido). Ao longo do sculo passado, diminuiu drasticamente o nmero de trabalhadores empregados no
servio domstico, na indstria e no sector agrcola. Ao mesmo tempo, a nvel profissional, os directores, os
administrativos, os vendedores e os trabalhadores dos servios triplicaram, crescendo de um quarto a trs
quartos do emprego total. Por outras palavras, os empregos no sector produtivo, tal como previsto, muitos
trabalhos produtivos automatizaram-se (ainda que se conte a totalidade dos trabalhadores da indstria a nvel mundial, incluindo a grande massa de trabalhadores explorados da ndia e da China, estes trabalhadores
j no representam uma percentagem da populao mundial to elevada como era habitual).
Mas ao contrrio de possibilitar uma reduo massiva do horrio laboral de maneira a que todas as pessoas
tenham tempo livre para se ocuparem dos seus prprios projectos, prazeres, vises e ideias, temos visto um
aumento do tempo de trabalho tanto no sector de servios como no administrativo. Isto inclui a criao de
novas indstrias, como os servios financeiros ou de telemarketing e a expanso de sectores como o direito
empresarial, a gesto do ensino e da sade, os recursos humanos e as relaes pblicas. E estes nmeros
nem sequer reflectem todas as pessoas cujo trabalho fornecer servios administrativos, tcnicos, ou de segurana para essas indstrias, para no mencionar toda uma gama de sectores secundrios (tratadores de
ces, entregadores de pizza 24 horas) que devem a sua existncia ao facto do resto da populao passar tanto tempo a trabalhar noutros sectores.<!more>
Estes so os trabalhos a que proponho chamar de empregos de merda.
como se algum estivesse a inventar trabalhos apenas para nos terem ocupados. aqui, precisamente,
que reside o mistrio. E isso exactamente o que no devia acontecer no capitalismo. Claro que, nos antigos
e ineficientes estados socialistas como a Unio Sovitica, onde o emprego era considerado tanto um direito
como uma obrigao sagrada, o sistema criava todos os empregos que fizessem falta, (era este o motivo que
levava a que nas lojas soviticas fossem precisos trs empregados para vender um s bife). Mas, claro,
este o tipo de problema que suposto ser corrigido com a concorrncia dos mercados. De acordo com a teoria econmica dominante, desperdiar dinheiro em postos de trabalho desnecessrios o que menos inte-

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ressa a uma companhia que queira ter lucro. Mas ainda assim, e sem se perceber muito bem porqu, isso
que acontece.
Ainda que muitas empresas se dediquem a reduzir o nmero de trabalhadores de forma cruel, estes despedimentos e o aumento de responsabilidade para os que permanecem -, recaem invariavelmente sobre os
que se dedicam a fabricar, transportar, reparar e manter as coisas.
Devido a uma estranha metamorfose, que ningum capaz de explicar, o nmero de administrativos assalariados parece continuar a aumentar. O resultado, e isto acontecia tambm com os trabalhadores soviticos,
que cada vez h mais empregados que, teoricamente, trabalham 40 ou 50 horas semanais, mas que, na
prtica, s trabalham as 15 horas previstas por Keynes, j que levam o resto do dia a organizarem ou a participarem em seminrios motivacionais, actualizando os seus perfis do Facebook ou fazendo downloads de vdeos e musica.
claro que a reposta no econmica, mas sim moral e poltica. A classe dirigente descobriu que uma populao feliz e produtiva com abundante tempo livre nas suas mos representa um perigo mortal (recordemos
o que comeou a acontecer na primeira vez em que houve uma pequena aproximao a algo deste tipo, nos
anos 60). Por outro lado, o sentimento de que o trabalho um valor moral em si mesmo e que quem no esteja disposto a submeter-se a uma disciplina laboral intensa durante a maior parte da sua vida no merece
nada, algo que lhes muito conveniente.
Certa vez, ao contemplar o crescimento aparentemente interminvel de responsabilidades administrativas
nos departamentos acadmicos britnicos, imaginei uma possvel viso do inferno. O inferno um conjunto
de indivduos que passam a maior parte do seu desempenhando tarefas de que nem gostam nem fazem especialmente bem. Imaginemos que se contratam uns marceneiros altamente qualificados e que, de repente,
descobrem que o seu trabalho consistir em passarem grande parte do dia a fritarem peixe. No que a tarefa realmente necessite de ser feita h apenas um nmero muito limitado de peixes que preciso fritar.
Ainda assim, todos eles tornam-se obcecados com a suspeita de que alguns dos seus companheiros possam
passar mais tempo a talhar madeira do que a cumprirem as suas responsabilidade como fritadores de peixe
que, rapidamente, vamos encontrar pilhas interminveis de intil peixe mal frito, acumulado por toda a oficina, acabando, todos eles, por se dedicarem exclusivamente a isso.
Acho que esta realmente uma descrio bastante precisa da dinmica moral da nossa prpria economia.
Estou consciente de que argumentos como este vo ter
objeces imediatas. Quem s tu para determinar quais
os trabalhos que so necessrios? O que necessrio,
afinal? s professor de antropologia, explica-me a necessidade disso? . (E, na verdade muitos leitores de imprensa cor-de-rosa classificariam o meu trabalho como a
definio por excelncia de um investimento social desperdiado). E, em certo sentido, isso obviamente verdadeiro. No h uma forma objectiva de medir o valor
social.
No me atreveria a dizer a uma pessoa que est conven-

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cida de estar a contribuir com algo importante para a humanidade, de que, na verdade, est equivocada. Mas o
que se passa com aqueles que tm a certeza de que os
seus trabalhos no servem para nada? -No h muito
tempo atrs retomei o contacto com um amigo de escola
que no via desde os meus 12 anos. Fiquei espantado ao
descobrir que nesse intervalo de tempo, ele se tinha tornado poeta, e, foi vocalista de uma banda de rock indie. Inclusivamente, tinha ouvido algumas das suas msicas na rdio sem ter ideia que o cantor era meu
amigo de infncia. Ele era, obviamente, uma pessoa inovadora e genial, e o seu trabalho tinha, sem dvida,
melhorado e alegrado a vida de muitas pessoas em todo o mundo. No entanto, depois de um par de lbuns
sem sucesso, perdeu o contrato com a editora e atormentado com dvidas e uma filha recm-nascida, acabou, como ele descreveu, por tomar a opo que, por excluso, muitas pessoas sem rumo escolhem: a Faculdade de Direito. Agora um advogado de negcios e trabalha numa proeminente empresa de Nova York.
Ele foi o primeiro a admitir que o seu trabalho era totalmente sem sentido, no contribuindo em nada para a
humanidade e que, na sua prpria opinio, nem sequer deveria existir.
Chegados aqui h uma srie de perguntas que podemos fazer. A primeira seria: o que que isto revela sobre
a nossa sociedade que parece gerar uma procura extremamente limitada para poetas e msicos talentosos,
mas uma procura aparentemente infinita de especialistas em direito empresarial. (Resposta: Se 1% da populao controla a maior parte da riqueza disponvel, o denominado mercado reflectir o que essa nfima minoria, e ningum a no serem eles, acha que til ou importante). Mas, ainda mais, isto mostra que a maioria das pessoas nesses empregos esto conscientes desta realidade. Na verdade, creio que nunca conheci
nenhum advogado corporativo que no achasse que o seu trabalho uma estupidez. O mesmo vlido para
quase todos os novos sectores anteriormente mencionados. H toda uma classe de profissionais assalariados que se os encontrarmos numa festa e lhes confessarmos que nos dedicamos a algo que pode ser considerado interessante (como, por exemplo, a antropologia) evitam falar da sua profisso. Mas, depois de algumas bebidas, v-los a fazerem discursos inflamados sobre a estupidez e a inutilidade do seu trabalho.
H aqui uma profunda violncia psicolgica. Como que podemos fazer uma discusso sria sobre a dignidade laboral quando h tanta gente que, no fundo, acha que o seu trabalho nem sequer deveria existir? Inevitavelmente, isto d lugar ao ressentimento e a uma raiva muito profunda. No entanto, no engenho peculiar da nossa sociedade que os governantes encontraram uma maneira como no exemplo dos fritadores de
peixe de garantir que a raiva dirigida precisamente contra aqueles que realizam tarefas teis. Parece mesmo haver na nossa sociedade uma regra geral segundo a qual quanto um trabalho mais benfico para os
outros, pior a sua remunerao. Mais uma vez difcil encontrar uma avaliao objectiva, mas uma maneira fcil de ter uma ideia seria perguntarmo-nos: que aconteceria se todo este grupo de trabalhadores simplesmente desaparecesse? Diga o que se disser sobre enfermeiros, empregados do lixo ou mecnicos, bvio que se eles desaparecessem numa nuvem de fumo, os resultados seriam imediatos e catastrficos. Um
mundo sem professores ou trabalhadores porturios no tardaria a estar em apuros e um mundo sem escritores de fico cientfica ou msicos de ska seria, sem dvida, um mundo pior. Ainda no est totalmente
claro quanto sofreria a humanidade se todos os investidores de capital privado, lobyistas, investigadores, seguradores, operadores de telemarketing, oficiais de justia ou consultores legais se esfumassem da mesma
forma. (H quem suspeite que tudo melhoraria sensivelmente). No entanto, para alm de um punhado de
bem elogiadas excepes, como, por exemplo, os mdicos, a regra mantm-se com surpreendente
frequncia.
Ainda mais perversa a noo generalizada de que assim que as coisas devem ser. Este um dos segredos

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do xito do populismo de direita. Podemos comprov-lo quando a imprensa sensacionalista suscita o ressentimento contra os trabalhadores do metro por paralisarem Londres durante um conflito laboral. O simples facto de que os trabalhadores do metro possam paralisar toda a cidade de Londres demonstra a necessidade do trabalho que desempenham, mas precisamente isso que parece incomodar tantas pessoas. Nos
Estados Unidos vo ainda mais longe; os Republicanos tiveram muito xito propagando o ressentimento relativamente aos professores ou aos operrios do sector automvel ao chamar a ateno para os seus salrios e prestaes sociais supostamente excessivos (e no contra os administradores escolares e gestores da indstria automvel que so quem realmente causa os problemas, o que significativo).
como se eles nos estivessem a dizer: mas sim, tens a sorte de poder ensinar crianas! Ou fazer carros! Fazeis trabalhos de verdade! E, como se fosse pouco, tendes a desfaatez de reclamar penses de reforma e
cuidados de sade equivalentes s da classe mdia!?
Se algum tivesse desenhado um regime de trabalho com o fim exclusivo de manter os privilgios do mundo
financeiro dificilmente podia ter feito melhor. Os trabalhadores que realmente produzem sofrem uma explorao e uma precariedade constantes. Os restantes dividem-se entre o estrato aterrorizado e universalmente
desprezado dos desempregados e outro estrato maior, que basicamente recebe um salrio em troca de no
fazer nada, em lugares desenhados para que se identifiquem com a sensibilidade e a perspectiva da classe
dirigente (directores, administradores, etc.) e em particular dos seus avatares financeiros a qual, ao mesmo tempo, promove o crescente ressentimento contra aqueles cujo trabalho tem um valor social claro e indiscutvel. Evidentemente que este sistema no fruto de um plano inicialmente previsto, mas emergiu como o resultado de quase um sculo de tentativas e erros. E a nica explicao possvel para o facto de,
apesar da nossa capacidade tecnolgica, no se ter implantado ainda a jornada laboral de trs ou quatro
horas.
On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber, aquihttp://www.strikemag.org/the-summer-of/
Traduzido pelo CLE a partir da verso espanhola.http://guerrillatranslation.com/2013/09/24/el-fenomenode-los-curros-inutiles/

David Graebers The Democracy Project


and the anarchist revival (NewYorker)
07/05/2013

Uncategorized

A CRITIC AT LARGE

Anarquismo, David Graeber, Occupy

PAINT BOMBS
BYKELEFA SANNEH,MAY 13, 2013
Occupy resisted those who wanted to stop it and those who wan-

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ted to organize it. Illustration by Shout.


In the summer of 2011, when David Graeber heard rumors of a
mobilization against Wall Street, he was hopeful but wary. Graeber is an anthropologist by trade, and a radical by inclination,
which means that he spends a lot of time at political demonstrations, scrutinizing other demonstrators. When he wandered
down to Bowling Green, in the financial district, on August 2nd,
he noticed a few people who appeared to be the leaders,
equipped with signs and megaphones. It seemed that they were ailiated with the Workers World Party, a socialist group
known for stringent pronouncements that hark back to the
Cold Wara recent article in the W.W.P. newspaper hailed the
steadfast determination of North Korea and its leaders. As far
as Graeber was concerned, W.W.P. organizers and others like
them could doom the new movement, turning away potential allies with their discredited ideology and their
unimaginative tactics. Perhaps they would deliver a handful of speeches and lead a bedraggled march, culminating in the presentation of a list of demands. Names and e-mail addresses would be collected, and then,
a few weeks or months later, everyone would regroup and do it again.
Graeber refers to march planners and other organizers as verticals, and to him this is an insult: it refers not
just to defenders of Kim Jong-un but to anyone who thinks a political uprising needs parties or leaders. He is
a horizontal, which is to say, an anarchist. He is fiy-two, but he has made common cause with a generation of activists too young to have any interest in the Cold War, or anything associated with it. And, as he listened to speeches in Bowling Green, he realized that many of the people there seemed to be horizontals, too.
Working with some like-minded activists, on the opposite side of the park, Graeber helped to convene a general assemblyan open-ended meeting, with no agenda and a commitment to consensus.Adbusters, a Canadian magazine, had called for an occupation of Wall Street on September 17th, which was six weeks away;
that aernoon, in Bowling Green, a few dozen horizontals decided to see what they could do to respond.
When the day came, Graeber and his allies had to fend o two dierent enemies: the people who wanted to
stop the occupation and the people who wanted to organize it. Occupy Wall Street succeeded, and survived,
in its original locationZuccotti Park, halfway between Wall Street and the World Trade Center sitefor nearly two months, much longer than anyone predicted. It inspired similar occupations around the country,
creating a model for radical politics in the Obama era. And it became known, more than anything, for its
commitment to horizontalism: no parties, no leaders, no demands.
Inevitably, this triumph of horizontalism increased the prominence of a handful of horizontals, none more
than Graeber, who has emerged as perhaps the most influential radical political thinker of the moment. His
American academic career has been rocky: he was an associate professor at Yale but was never up for tenure,
and in 2005 the university decided not to extend his contract. (He now suggests that he was insuiciently deferential to Yales hierarchical environment.) By the summer of 2011, he was teaching anthropology at
Goldsmiths College, in London, while building a growing reputation in anarchist circles worldwide. His books
tend to end up as pirated PDF files, freely available on le-wing Web sites.
A few weeks before the rally in Bowling Green, Graeber published Debt: The First 5,000 Years, a provocative
counter-history of civilization that has become an unlikely best-seller. He argued that the current American

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anxiety about debt, private and public, is merely the latest manifestation of an ancient obsession. He sought
to show that debt prexisted money: people owed things to each other before they had a way to measure the
size of those obligations. In one of his most memorable passages, he considered the diering roles of debt in
a market society (where we dont owe each other anything, except what we agree to) and in a nation-state
(where we all owe an insurmountable debt to the government, whether we agree or not). He called this dichotomy a great trap of the twentieth centurya false choice between the freedom of a consumer and the
obligations of a citizen. States created markets, he wrote. Markets require states. Neither could continue
without the other, at least in anything like the forms we would recognize today. This is the essence of Graebers ideology, and to a large extent the essence of Occupy: a commitment to fighting the twinned powers of
private wealth and public force. He has proposed a grand debt cancellation, to remind the world that a debt
is merely a promisethat is, a plan, and one that can be changed.
By the time the New York Police Department reclaimed Zuccotti Park, in November, the evictees were already
trying to figure out whether the occupation had been a success, and what success might mean. In the past
year, this debate has been taken up in a series of essays and books rehearsing the little indignities and big
ideas that characterized life in Zuccotti Park and other sites of occupation. Now comes Graeber himself, with
The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement (Spiegel & Grau). Like all revolutionaries, he is skilled in the art of wild extrapolation, starting from a small band of dissidents and imagining a world transformed. He doesnt believe that a better future is inevitable. But like lots of people, not all of them radical or
even political, he does believe that the current arrangement is unstable, and that we may as well start thinking about what might come next.
We are the ninety-nine per cent! That was the rallying cry in Zuccotti Park, and beyond, although there is
some debate about exactly which member of the we came up with it. In his book, Graeber stakes a partial
claim, quoting an e-mail he sent to a group list on August 4, 2011, in which he proposed calling the occupation the Ninety-Nine Per Cent Movement. The figure had been popularized by the economist Joseph Stiglitz,
who estimated that the richest one per cent of Americans earn nearly twenty-five per cent of the income and
control forty per cent of the wealth. The ninety-nine per cent, then, is everybody else. It was a great slogan,
because it linked the people in the parks to the people watching at home, suggesting a kind of class struggle
that even class-averse Americans could support.
Whats striking about this formulation, though, is whats missing: any explicit reference to the one per cent. It
was a self-reflexive slogan for a self-reflexive movement, one that came to be known more for its internal politics than for its critique of the outside world. Perhaps no one could say exactly what the Zuccotti Park occupation wanted, but lots of people knew how it worked. There was the peoples mic, an ingenious system of
public address: short speeches were delivered one phrase at a time, with each phrase repeated, in unison, by
whoever happened to be standing nearby. And there was a small lexicon of hand signals, which Occupiers
could use to respond with approval, or disapproval, or extreme disapprovalthe crossed-fists block, which
could bring any discussion to a halt.
In We Are Many: Reflections on Movement Strategy from Occupation to Liberation (AK Press), a dely edited anthology, a wide range of Occupiers and sympathizers look back on those days in 2011. One New York
participant recalls the nerve-racking moment when she helped block the adoption of an oicial declaration,
because she felt that the language downplayed the importance of race, gender, and other kinds of identity.
Marisa Holmes, a New York activist, describes how the occupations horizontal structurecomposed of semi-autonomous working groups, free-form discussions, and a spokescouncilworked, for a time, and then
disintegrated. Graeber describes the encampments as a defiant experiment in libertarian communism, but

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the subtext of We Are Many is that this experiment was more inspiring as an ideal: the most enthusiastic
essays tend to come from people, like Graeber, who spent little or no time actually living in the parks.
Is it fair to describe the Occupy movement as anarchist? In We Are Many, Cindy Milstein, a longtime activist,
stipulates that radicals in Zuccotti Park were outnumbered by liberals, including those she deprecates as
militant liberals. But she argues that, even if the Occupiers werent all anarchists, they were nevertheless
doing anarchism. In Zuccotti Park and elsewhere, doing anarchism oen meant struggling not against
bankers, directly, but against local government and local police. (In New York, one galvanizing figure was
Anthony Bologna, a senior police oicer who was disciplined aer video surfaced showing him squirting protesters with pepper spray.) Perhaps this was a smart strategy: instead of arguing about economics and ideology, the Occupiers could airm, instead, their unanimous commitment to freedom of assembly. Occupy may
have begun with a grievance against Wall Street, but the process of occupation transformed the movement
into a meta-movement, peopled by activists demanding the right to demand their rights.
Karl Marx agreed with the anarchists of his day that the state should be destroyed. But he disagreed about
when. He was convinced that the state would become obsolete only aer the working class had taken it over,
thereby destroying the class system. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the French philosopher who popularized the
term anarchist, thought that the idea of a revolutionary government was a contradiction in terms. Governments are Gods scourge, established todisciplinethe world, he wrote. Do you really expect them to destroy
themselves, to create freedom, to make revolution? Mikhail Bakunin, the prickly Russian agitator, sneered
at Marxs idea of a workers state. As soon as they become rulers or representatives of the people, he wrote,
they will cease to be workers and will begin to look upon the whole workers world from the heights of the
state. In 1872, at a meeting in The Hague, Marx helped to expel Bakunin from the International Workingmens Association, formalizing a division that seemed no less stark, nearly a century and a half later, when
the horizontals broke from the verticals on an August aernoon in Bowling Green.
In delivering his brief for anarchism, Graeber asks readers to take into account the movements history of good behavior. For nearly a century now, he writes, anarchism has been one of the very few political philosophies whose exponents never blow anyone up. This is a sly way of acknowledging that, a hundred years
ago, anarchists had a rather dierent reputation. On May 4, 1886, in Haymarket Square, in Chicago, police tried to halt a demonstration by striking workers, and someone in the crowd threw a bomb, which killed at least ten people, including seven police oicers. Chicago had become a hub of anarchist politics, and although
the bomber was never identified, eight anarchists were convicted of being accessories to murder. In Europe,
anarchists carried out a series of spectacular attacks, including the assassinations of one President (French),
two kings (Italian and Greek), and three Prime Ministers (Spanish, Russian, and Spanish again). In the U.S.,
anarchisms reputation was sealed for a generation by Leon Czolgosz, who killed President William McKinley,
in 1901; he had evidently been inspired by Emma Goldman, the prominent anarchist rabble-rouser.
Over the years, though, anarchists ferocious reputation has mellowed. The Occupy movement borrowed some of its organizing tactics from the egalitarian groups that formed, in the nineteen-seventies, to try to stop
the construction of nuclear power plants. And the rise of punk helped give anarchism a new image: Anarchy
in the U.K., by the Sex Pistols, was an ambiguous provocation; other bands, like Crass, used anarchy to
signal their commitment to a bundle of emancipatory causes, and their independence from the socialist organizations that dominated the British le. The connection to punk lent anarchism a countercultural credibility, and in 1999, when tens of thousands of activists materialized in Seattle, intent on shutting down a World
Trade Organization conference, raucous young anarchists were out in front; at one point, they smashed the
window of a Starbucks. The smashed window became an icon of resistance, and the chaos in the streets of

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Seattle galvanized a mobilization, known as the Global Justice movement.


Twelve years later, not all of Occupys supporters were happy to see anarchists playing a starring role. In a
contentious essay titled, The Cancer in Occupy, Chris Hedges called for a clean break. Hedges is a formerTimesreporter turned socialist author and activist, and he published his essay on the progressive Web site
Truthdig, a few months aer the Zuccotti eviction. His main target was the black bloc phenomenon, in which activistsoen anarchistsdress in black clothes, with black handkerchiefs obscuring their faces, the
better to cause mischief anonymously. Hedges accused black blocs of a lust for destruction, which he described as a sickness. Once the Occupy movement is painted as a flag-burning, rock-throwing, angry mob we
are finished, he wrote.
In a deeply indignant response to Hedges, Graeber pointed out that black-bloc actions had been rare in the
Occupy movement. Much of Hedgess concern seemed to arise from a single incident in Oakland, when a
black bloc smashed bank windows and vandalized a Whole Foods. Like many anarchists, Graeber doesnt
think property damage is violence. And he believes that so-called mobs have their usesin 2001, in Quebec City, he was part of a black bloc that succeeded in toppling a chain-link fence meant to separate activists
from the free-trade meeting they wanted to disrupt. He supports diversity of tactics, an approach that urges dierent kinds of activists to stay physically separate (so as not to endanger each other) but politically
united. Above all, Graeber rejects what he calls the peace police: activists who try to control other activists
behavior, sometimes in collaboration with the real police. His tolerance for confrontational protest stems in
part from his disinclination to empower anyone to stop it.
Graeber is more worried about the charge that modern anarchists are feckless, so he is keen to give anarchists credit for changing the world. He claims that the Global Justice movement weakened the W.T.O. and
scuttled the Free Trade Area of the Americas pact, which was the topic of those discussions in Quebec City.
And he credits the Occupy movement with preventing Mitt Romney from becoming President. (He underestimates Romneys own, invaluable contributions to this cause.) Graeber is pleased, too, to underscore the links
between Occupy and other popular movements around the world, from the Egyptian uprising to the ongoing
demonstrations of the Indignados, in Spain. He sees a global insurrectionary wave, united less by a shared
ideology than by a shared opposition to an increasingly global social arrangement.
The rehabilitation of anarchism in America has a lot to do with the fall of the Soviet Union, which lives on in
popular memory as a quaint and brutal placean embarrassing precursor that modern, pro-democracy socialists must find ways to disavow. Graeber sees authoritarian socialists not as distant relatives but as
longtime enemies; channelling Bakunin, he claims that the Marxist intention to smash the state by seizing it
first is a pipe dream. For anarchists, the major historical precursors are so fleeting as to be nearly nonexistent: the Paris Commune lasted scarcely two months, in 1871; anarchists dominated Catalonia for about a
year, aer the Spanish revolution in 1936. The appeal of anarchism is largely negative: a promise that a dierent world neednt resemble any of the ones that have been tried before.
In a new book, Two Cheers for Anarchism (Princeton), James C. Scott, a highly regarded professor of anthropology and political science at Yale (and, Graeber says, one of the great political thinkers of our time),
commends anarchism precisely for its tolerance for confusion and improvisation. Graeber did his anthropological field work in the highlands of Madagascar, and Scott did his in Southeast Asia, but their conclusions were similar. Both of them encountered communities that lived more or less autonomously, finding ways
to resist or ignore whatever governments claimed jurisdiction over them. And both are eager to expand the
history of lived anarchism beyond Paris and Catalonia; it is, they argue, broader and more common than

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weve been taught.


Two Cheers for Anarchism conducts a brief and digressive seminar in political philosophy, starting from the
perspective of a disillusioned leist. Virtually every major successful revolution ended by creating a state
more powerful than the one it overthrew, Scott writes. Traditionally, this has been an argument against revolutions, but Scott wonders whether it might be an argument against states. He stops short of calling for
the abolition of government, which explains the missing cheer. Instead, he highlights everyday acts of petty
resistance: foot-dragging, poaching, pilfering, dissimulation, sabotage, desertion, absenteeism, squatting,
and flight. Most of all, he urges citizens to be wary of their governments, which is good advice, but rather deflatingScott can make anarchism sound like little more than a colorful word for critical thinking.
Graeber shares Scotts mistrust of grand prescriptions, but he thinks that he has found an alternative: prefigurative politics, which holds that political movements resemble the worlds they seek to create. Instead of
planning a new society, revolutionaries must form a new society, and then grow. A hierarchical vanguard
party will never create broad equality, just as, he says, grim joyless revolutionaries cant be trusted to increase human happiness. From this perspective, all those seemingly insular procedural debates in Zuccotti
Park werent insular at all: how the movement worked would determine what it wanted. What Graeber wants
is a kind of decentralized socialism, with decisions made by a patchwork of local assemblies and coperativesat one point, he imagines something vaguely like jury duty, except non-compulsory. He argues that
serious economic inequality wouldnt endure without a state to enforce it. We are already anarchists, or at
least we act like anarchists, every time we come to understandings with one another that would not require
physical threats as a means of enforcement, he writes. Its a question of building on what we are already
doing, expanding the zones of freedom, until freedom becomes the ultimate organizing principle.
Graeber is comfortableperhaps too comfortablewith uncertainty. We have little idea what sort of organizations, or for that matter, technologies, would emerge if free people were unfettered to use their imagination to actually solve collective problems rather than to make them worse, he writes, which seems an odd admission for a deeply committed unfetterer. (If we dont know much about this free world, how do we know
it wont be, in some ways, just as coercive?) Graeber talks about the way a new society would expand peoples options, but he has acknowledged that a truly anarchist revolution would mean less production, and
less consumption. Humankind would be rid of all the useless or destructive occupations like telemarketers,
lawyers, prison guards, financial analysts, public relations experts, bureaucrats and politicians. (Anthropology professors would appear to be safe.) Although Graeber likes to distance himself from his grim and joyless rivals, there is a trace of asceticism in his vision. Part of Graebers motivation for wandering down to Bowling Green, back in 2011, was his opposition to what he calls draconian austerity budgets proposed by
Mayor Bloomberg. Graeber wants to demonize modern debt without demonizing debtors. Yet the language
of economic austerity finds a striking analogue in his vision of a post-debt society composed of people who
have learned, at long last, to live within their means.
Graeber believes that the Occupy movement wouldnt have attracted as much attention if it hadnt been for
the Tea Party movement, a few years earlier. Reporters sensed a parallel, and they wanted, he says, to make
a minimal gesture in the way of balance. He notes that the reporters moved on around the time it became
clear that the Occupy movement, unlike the Tea Party movement, was not going to become a force in electoral politics. In fact, there is one anarchist who could be considered influential in Washington, but he wasnt
among the activists who participated in the Occupy movementhe died nearly twenty years ago. His name is
Murray Rothbard, and, among small-government Republicans, he is something of a cult hero. He was Ron
Pauls intellectual mentor, which makes him the godfather of the godfather of the Tea Party. Justin Amash, a

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young Republican congressman from Michigan and a rising star in the Party, hangs a framed portrait of him
on his oice wall.
Rothbard was an anarchist, but also a capitalist. True anarchism will be capitalism, and true capitalism will
be anarchism, he once said, and he sometimes referred to himself by means of a seven-syllable honorific:
anarcho-capitalist. Graeber thinks that governments treat their citizens like children, and that, when governments disappear, people will behave dierently. Anarcho-capitalists, on the contrary, believe that,
without government, people will behave more or less the same: we will be just as creative or greedy or competent as we are now, only freer. Instead of imagining a world without drastic inequality, anarcho-capitalists
imagine a world where people and their property are secured by private defense agencies, which are paid to
keep the peace. Graeber doesnt consider anarcho-capitalists to be true anarchists; no doubt the feeling is
mutual.
The split personality of anarchism demonstrates the slippery nature of anti-government arguments, which
can bring together a wide range of people who are deeply dissatisfied with the government weve got. In the
aermath of the 2008 financial crisis and the government bailouts and loans that followed, capitalists and
anticapitalists were oen united in their disapproval, and, when Graeber criticizes collusion between government and financial institutions, he is speaking the shared language of the Tea Party and the Occupy
movements. During those days in 2011, one of the politicians who expressed support for the Occupy movement was Buddy Roemer, a Republican and a former governor of Louisiana, who was waging a long-shot
campaign to win his partys Presidential nomination. I think the Tea Party is onto something: special favors
for special friends, he said, aer visiting the Washington encampment. Hell, thats what Occupy Washington, D.C., is sayingtheyre saying the same thing.
Despite a few attempts at outreach, Occupy and the Tea Party never found much common ground. Its not
easy for a protest movement to shrug o the logic of partisanship: the Tea Party was essentially a Republican
movement, and, if the Occupiers held low opinions of the Democratic Party, it was always clear that they disdained Republicans much more. Even Graeber, for all his radicalism, still sees himself as an ally, however disaected, of liberal Democrats in their fight against the conservative agenda. In a recent online exchange, he
wrote about his frustration with the political establishment. What reformers have to understand is that
theyre never going to get anywhere without radicals and revolutionaries to betray, he wrote, and went on:

Ive never understood why progressives dont


understand this. The mainstream right understands it,
thats why they go crazy when it looks like someone
might be cracking down on far-right militia groups, and
so forth. They know its totally to their political
advantage to have people even further to the right than
they so they can seem moderate. If only the
mainstream le acted the same way!
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Despite his implacable opposition to state power, Graeber oen finds himself defending the sorts of government program that liberals typically support, such as socialized medicine. There is a distinction, he argues,
between state institutions based on coercion, like prisons or border control, and those which could (in a
post-capitalist future) be run as voluntary collectives, like health care. Still, he is self-aware enough to be
amused by all the ways in which anarchists find themselves fighting, in the short term, for causes that would
seem to increase the role of government. Early in The Democracy Project, he describes being at a demonstration in London that protested government budget cuts and corporate tax breaks. He remembers thinking,
It feels a bit unsettling watching a bunch of anarchists in masks outside Topshop, lobbing paint bombs over
a line of riot cops, shouting, Pay your taxes! Then he admits that he was one of the paint bombers.
At times, Graeber can sound like one of the orthodox Marxists he lampoons, eager to see the state wither
awayjust not quite yet. Its a common paradox. For years, American politicians have been promising to
bring the country a smaller, more streamlined state; President Obama was obliged to present his health-care
reforms as an opportunity to reduce, not increase, the federal budget. As the government expands, the calls
to shrink it grow louder; even many radicals, these days, decline to be counted as proponents of big government. In a more fragile state, like Greece or Spain, anarchism oen adopts an apocalyptic tone: to be an
anarchist is to accept, or even to welcome, the cataclysm that all the politicians fear. But in America anarchisms appeal surely has something to do with the seeming durability of our current arrangement, and the
inexorable growth of the government that maintains it. Such is the power of a sprawling and sophisticated
state: the bigger it gets, the easier it becomes for us to imagine that we could live without it.

A Radical Anthropologist Finds Himself in


Academic Exile (The Chronicle of
HigherEducation)
15/04/2013

Uncategorized

participatividade, Poltica
April 15, 2013

Anarquismo, Antropologia, Cidadania, David Graeber, Educao,

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Pete Marovich for The Chronicle. David Graeber, an anthropologist who studies and participates in the radical
le, finds fans of his work inside academe and out. Here he speaks with audience members during a talk at a
public library in Washington, D.C.
By Christopher Shea
Whos afraid of David Graeber? Not the dozens of D.C.-area residents who showed up on a recent night at the
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library to hear the anthropologist and radical activist talk about his new book,The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement(Spiegel & Grau). Aimed at the mainstream, the book discusses Mr. Graebers involvement in the Occupy Wall Street movement and the idea that principles
drawn from anarchist theorya wholesale rejection of current electoral politics, for starters, in favor of
groups operating on the basis of consensusoer an alternative to our present polity, which he calls organized bribery (or mafia capitalism).
On this warm spring evening the rumpled scholar was interviewed by a friendly and more conventionally telegenic writer, Thomas Frank. Graying leies and young liberals and radicals in the crowd alike seemed impressed. Even the token skeptical economist in the audience framed her question respectfully, and C-Span
broadcast live.
Mr. Graeber is a star in the le-academic world. Indeed, its possible that, given his activism and his writings,
he is the most influential anthropologist in the world. He played a part in establishing the nonhierarchical
organization of the Occupy movement, in its early days in Manhattan, and his 500-plus-pageDebt: The First
5,000 Years(Melville House, 2011) struck scholars for its verve and sweep. It made the case that lending and
borrowing evolved out of humane, communitarian impulses in premodern societiesout of a free-floating
interest in the common wealand only later became institutionalized actions spawning moral guilt and legal
punishment.
The book ranged from discussions of ancient Sumerian economics to analyses of how Nambikwara tribesmen in Brazil settle their aairs to the international monetary system. An argument ofDebts scope hasnt
been made by a professional anthropologist for the best part of a century, certainly not one with as much
contemporary relevance, wrote the British anthropologist Keith Hart, of Goldsmiths College, University of

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London, in a review on his Web site last year. The book won a prize for best book in anthropology from the
Society for Cultural Anthropology in 2012 and according to his agent has sold nearly 100,000 copies in English alone.
But strikingly, Mr. Graeber, 52, has been unable to get an academic job in the United States. In an incident
that drew national attention, Yale University, in 2005, told him it would not renew his contract (which would
have promoted him from assistant professor to term associate professor). Aer a fight, he won a reprievebut only for two years. He never came up for tenure.
Foreign universities immediately sent out feelers, he says. From 2008 through this spring, Mr. Graeber was a
lecturer and then a reader at Goldsmiths College and, just last month, he accepted a professorship at the
London School of Economics and Political Science.
But no American universities approached him, he says, and nearly 20 job applications in this country (or Canada) have borne no fruit. The applications came in two waves: directly aer the Yale brouhaha and a couple
of years later, when he concluded he wanted to return to the States for reasons that were partly personal (a
long-distance romantic relationship, the death of his mother and older brother).
His academic exile, as he calls it, has not gone unnoticed. It is possible to view the fact that Graeber has
not secured a permanent academic position in the United States aer his controversial departure from Yale
University as evidence of U.S. anthropologys intolerance of political outspokenness, writes Je Maskovsky,
an associate professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, in the March issue ofAmerican Anthropologist.
That charge might seem paradoxical, given anthropologys reputation as a leist redoubt, but some of Mr.
Graebers champions see that leism as shallower than it might first appear. Anthropology is radical in the
abstract, says Laura Nader, a professor in the field at the University of California at Berkeley. You can quote
Foucault and Gramsci, but if you tell it like it is, its a dierent story, she says.
Mr. Graeber talks about possibilities, and God, if theres anything we need now its possibilities, she says.
We are in tunnels. We are turned in. We are more ethnocentric than ever. Weve turned the United States into a military zone. And into this move-to-the-right country comes David Graeber.
When he applied to Berkeley in the early 2000s and the department failed to hire him, we really missed the
boat, she says.
Jonathan Marks, a professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who had no direct experience with any Graeber job search, agrees: Whoever had a chance to hire him and didnt missed
out on having the author of one of the most important books in recent memory on their faculty, he wrote in
an e-mail.

Incredibly Conformist
Mr. Graeber was at first reluctant to talk about his failed job searches, for fear of coming across as bitter and
souring future chances, but he decided to open up aer the LSE job became oicial. As he recalled, the pla-

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ces to which he applied twice were the City University of New York Graduate Center, the New School, Cornell
University, and the University of Chicago. The others were Hunter College, Emory, Duke, Columbia, Stanford,
and Johns Hopkinsas well as the University of Toronto. He heard indirectly of colleagues at other universities trying to secure him a position, to no avail.
Responding to anthropologists frequent claim that they embrace activist scholarship, he echoes Ms. Nader:
They dont mean itat least when it comes truly radical activism.
If I were to generalize, Mr. Graeber says, I would say that what we see is a university system which mitigates against creativity and any form of daring. Its incredibly conformist and it represents itself as the opposite, and I think this kind of conformism is a result of the bureaucratization of the university.
He and his allies also suspect that false information emanating from his public fight with Yale, garnered secondhand, has hurt him.
When Yale announced it was not renewing his contract, students and some professors rallied behind him,
and he gave interviews suggesting that the decision was politically motivated. (The story madeThe New York
Times.)He had spent part of a sabbatical working with the Global Justice Movement, which has mounted
protests against such groups as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Perhaps surprisingly,
he did not take much part in the heated Yale debate over graduate-student unionization. He was, he likes to
say, a scholar in New Haven and an activist in New York.
During the dispute over his Yale position, he said, hed been accused of not doing service work (though he
did all he was asked, he said), of being late for classes, and of being ill prepared to teach. Yancey Orr, a graduate student in religion at the time who took courses from Mr. Graeber and is now an assistant professor of
anthropology at the University of Alberta, says that charge is absurd: He was easily the most helpful seminar leader you could ask for.
Being denied tenure at Yale is hardly unusual, but not getting rehired at Mr. Graebers stage is. Some professors Mr. Orr has talked to at institutions that failed to hire Mr. Graeber were under the impression that he
went nuclear over a tenure denial, but the situation was more complex, more unorthodox, says Mr. Orr.
The chairs of the departments to which Mr. Graeber applied who could be reached all cited confidentiality in
declining to talk about the decisionsor, typically, even to confirm hed applied. But several denied that politics would aect such decisions. I can say without hesitation, wrote James Ferguson, the chair of anthropology at Stanford, in an e-mail, that I personally would not regard Graebers political orientation as in any
way disqualifying, nor would I expect such views to be held by my colleagues.
As is known throughout the world, wrote Janet Roitman, chair of anthropology at the New School, the
New School prides itself for its longstanding tradition of radical politics; David would not have been the first
hire or tenured faculty member to pursue radical political positions or to engage in activism.
Some anthropologists, including Alex Golub, a contributor to the popular blog Savage Minds and an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, suggested that a general dearth of jobs in the field would
be enough to explain Mr. Graebers run of bad luckespecially because the book that brought him fame,Debt,had not been published at the time of the searches. (Though hed published four others by 2009, as

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well as a much-read pamphlet, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, with Prickly Paradigm.) But Mr.
Graeber scos at that: Gee, I applied for 17. Somebody got those jobs. Moreover, Britain is not brimming
with anthropology jobs, either, yet hes had little problem there.
I believe its possible that his politics have helped him in some cases and hurt him in others, says Mr. Maskovksy, of CUNY, who in his American Anthropologist essay raised the issue of what Mr. Graebers academic
exile to England meant for the profession . He has a huge following among graduate students because of his
protest work and because he links his protest work to the kind of anthropology he wants to do. But theres a
huge gap between generating that kind of interest and respect, on the one hand, and job-hiring decisions. I
dont know what makes people hire and what makes them not.

On Collegiality
One charge that has dogged Mr. Graeber is that he is diicult, an attribute thats obviously hard to gauge.
Ms. Nader says she urged him to soen his rough edgesto send thank-you cards, even, when protocol suggested it. (Mr. Graeber does not recall that counseling session on manners and says he always sends
thank-you notes.) But she finds it deplorable that scholars would value superficial clubbability over originality of thought; she decries the harmony ideology that has hit the academy. She also thinks the fact that
he writes in English, eschewing jargon, hasnt helped him.
There is some evidence of Mr. Graebers contentiousness. During an online seminar about Debt on the blog
Crooked Timber, Henry Farrell, an associate professor of political science at George Washington University,
said Mr. Graeber hadfor exampleprovided insuicient evidence that in the first Gulf War the United States
had attacked Iraq partly because Iraq had stopped using dollars as its reserve currency and turned to the euro. In Mr. Graebers response, he accused Mr. Farrell of consummate dishonesty and said he had failed to
engage with the argument and instead sought to show its maker was a lunatic. Mr. Farrell responded that
he was very unhappy with Mr. Graebers charges and tone.
From February to April 1, J. Bradford DeLong, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley, baited
Mr. Graeber by setting up an automated Twitter stream that sarcastically recounted dozens of alleged (or actual) errors of fact in Debt. For example: Learned that 12 Regional Fed Banks not private banks like Citi or
Goldman Sachs? Stay away until you do! #Graebererrors. Mr. Graeber responded aggressively. At one point
he wrote, on Twitter, referring to Mr. DeLongs work in the Clinton Treasury Department on the North American Free Trade Agreement: I bet the poor guy had a rough time at 14. Tried to compensate by gaining power,
then lookdestroyed Mexicos economy.
Mr. Graeber calls some of Mr. DeLongs postings libelousa virtual campaign of harassment. He has been
on a crusade to hurt me in every way, he says, growing angry.
Yet these guys are considered mainstream and Im the crazy guy who cant get a job. He adds, I dont even
write negative book reviews.
Mr. Graeber, who says he gets along just fine with his colleagues in Londonand, indeed, with most of his
former colleagues at Yalehas his own take on what scholars mean by collegiality: What collegiality means in practice is: He knows how to operate appropriately within an extremely hierarchical environment.
You never see anyone accused of lack of collegiality for abusing their inferiors. It means not playing the ga-

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me in what we say is the proper way.'


In his American Anthropologist essay, CUNYs Mr. Maskovsky said that the many graduate students who took
part in Occupy Wall Street might view Mr. Graebers diiculty finding a job as a cautionary tale. Would their
advisers see their activism as, at the least, a distraction from their research?
Manissa Maharawal is one such student, at CUNY, a participant in Occupy now studying the activist projects
that emerged from it. She says she has received nothing but support from her advisers and doesnt understand the politics of academic hiring, but finds the Graeber situation perplexingin a bad way. His work is really good, hes well reviewed, hes become pretty famous in the last year, she says. Im not sure whats
going on. You can have all the boxes youre supposed to check checked and still not get a job. Its scary, for
sure.

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