posts by: Alex Bradshaw

David Graeber has spent the last decade challenging the line drawn between scholar and activist. While many academics fancy themselves “radicals,” the anthropologist professor has been an active participant in anarchist and anti-authoritarian groups and organizing. Graeber has used his skill-set as an anthropologist to compile ethnographic data—far away from the classroom and campus, to be sure—regarding the contemporary anarchist movement in North America; the results were published in 2009 as Direct Action: An Ethnography. David Graeber is the author of several books, including Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology and, most recently, Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Graeber currently teaches social anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Below, Graeber discusses his latest book, the concept of debt in detail, and how his involvement in the anarchist movement sparked his interest in the history of debt.

Alex Bradshaw: Your latest book, Debt: The First 5000 Years, explores the origins of debt. What were some of the implications for communities and individuals when debt became a significant factor in people’s lives?

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I’m not a big fan of the self-deprivation – which often presents as puritanical and ascetic –often associated with New Year’s resolutions, unless they involve giving up… self-deprivation. The following five points – what I see as ways to make anarchism/ anarchy sexier, more practical, and in the here-and-now – do not serve as an arbitrary set of resolutions for a most heterogeneous of social/ political movements. Rather, they are my own aspirations and hopes for the anarchist movement in the New Year.

If they’re not your own hopes and aspirations, please add to this conversation. That is to say, I would love to hear others’ thoughts on what they would like to see anarchism become in 2011, and in the future.

The 2000’s have been a mixed bag for this movement that seeks to alter globalization. Of course 9/11/01 radically shifted the direction – and changed the dynamics, while slowing the momentum – of a movement that started the 2000’s still coasting off the fumes of Seattle ’99. We could consider 2011 as a time to reconsider what anarchism is, jettisoning the useless, and building on the valuable and useful and imaginative aspects.

I. Be nice to each other

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Author’s Note: This piece will be published in a monthly newspaper in Louisville called the FORsooth that is geared towards a more general audience, i.e., not just anarchists/ anti-authoritarians. Because of this, the piece speaks very generally about some things many anarchists/ anti-authoritarians may be very well-versed in, like CrimethInc. But I still feel it’s a useful overview for anarchists/ anti-authoritarians for what the Conspiracy Tour was all about.

Louisville Joins the Conspiracy

The Conspiracy Tour whisked through Louisville on August 8, transforming the usual slow paced, muggy Summer evening into an evening promising anarchy and humor, learning about state repression, conspiracy charges, and grand jury resistance.

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This is a much belated response to an article by anarcho-primitivist blogger Nihilo Zero, who was writing in response to an essay I wrote about anarchy and the BP oil spill.

I must say, first and foremost, that the response will hopefully spark something seemingly uncommon in the anarchist milieu: civil discourse amongst those who reach different anti-authoritarian conclusions. To be sure, there should be a healthy pluralism; homogeneity has more than simply authoritarian connotations. What still attracts me so, to anarchism/ anarchy, is that it has evolved into a macro critique of domination. And delegated boxes of homogeneity, to which we are confined, are a big part of this critique. Hence, when we speak of all-encompassing financial markets, spaces where we are permitted to do certain things but not others, with orders from above, it’s more than analogous to being delegated to gender binaries, or sexual orientations as Jamie Heckert has so wonderfully articulated, or people who perceive the world or move around in space differently than the majority being delegated to certain normative behaviors, etc.

So, if anarchism becomes a space in which certain tendencies are tolerated, and others are determined fraudulent by an informal leadership, I suppose you can count me out, and this philosophy has become antithetical to itself.

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The Black Bloc conversation lacks nuance. Since the recent G20 Summit recently took place in Canada, this conversation has been sparked again.

Unfortunately, the conversation from all political sides lacks vision, clarity, and understanding. From Marxists and anarchists, to thinkers ranging from the snake oil salesman right-wing conspiracist Alex Jones, to thinkers I respect like Naomi Klein, everyone seems to be getting it wrong. The conversation hasn’t made it a centimeter below the surface, and it’s really one of the most superficial arguments I’ve heard in a long time.

The so-called “Left” is something in which I loose more faith in every day as a force that will combat the spectacle of market society and capitalism, including some anarchist and Marxist comrades. In regards to their superficiality, they don’t sound much different than mainstream media or right-wing hacks when they speak of agent provocateurs, and how burning cop cars or breaking windows hurts their precious movement, for whatever that means.

Further, while the right-wing conspiracist milieu perpetuates their baseless claims of agent provocateurs donned in ski-masks, the left-wing critics continue to talk about this entity referred to as “the public.” “The public,” in itself, is particularly hard to define in our society. David Graeber explains this:

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