David Graeber, 1961-2020

via Heavy

David Graeber Dead: Anthropologist & Anti-Capitalist Thinker Behind ‘We Are the 99%’ Slogan Dies at 59

David Graeber, the anthropologist who was influential in the Occupy Wall Street movement and is believed to have coined the phrase, “We are the 99%,” has died at 59.

Graeber’s death was confirmed on the morning of September 3 by his wife, Nika Dubrovsky. Dubrovsky tweeted, “Yesterday the best person in a world, my husband and my friend. @davidgraeber died in a hospital in Venice.”

Graeber was the professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics and wrote the book Debt: The First 5000 Years which was published in 2011. His other books include 2015’s Utopia Rules and 2018’s Bullshit Jobs: A Theory. In addition to his involvement with Occupy Wall Street, Graeber was also known for his activism with the Global Justice Movement. On his Twitter page, Graeber described himself as “an anthropologist, sometimes I occupy things & such. I see anarchism as something you do not an identity so don’t call me the anarchist anthropologist.”

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Graeber Said on August 28 That He Was ‘Under the Weather’ But Was Starting to Feel Better

On August 28, Graeber said in a YouTube video that he had been feeling “a little under the weather” but was beginning to feel better. The same day, Graeber tweeted that he had “not been in tip-top shape.”

On August 31, Dubrovsky tweeted a photo from Venice with the caption, “Venice. Dark, wet and chilly.” Graeber was active on Twitter until the day before his death.

In August 2020, Graeber was interviewed in a special edition of the street newspaper The Big Issue. The special edition was edited by British singer Jarvis Cocker.

According to Graeber’s LinkedIn page, he is a graduate of SUNY Purchase and attained a PhD in anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1996. Graeber’s first teaching job was as an assistant professor of anthropology at Haverford College. In 1998, Graeber began working as an associate professor at Yale University. Graeber remained in that role until June 2007. Since September 2007, Graeber had been teaching at the University of London’s School of Economics. A profile on SUNY Purchase’s website referred to Graeber as “one of the most brilliant minds of his generation.”

2. Graeber Suspected His Teaching Contract at Yale Was Discontinued Because of His ‘Radical Actions’

A 2011 Rolling Stone article attributed the phrase, “We are the 99%,” to Graeber in a piece on the Occupy Wall Street movement. The phrase had been mentioned by economist Josep Stiglitz’s in a May 2011 article for Vanity Fair. The Rolling Stone article mentioned that Graeber suspected his teaching job at Yale was discontinued because of his “radical actions.” The article also said that Graeber decamped to Austin, Texas, four days after the physical protest began in Zuccotti Park in New York City.

3. Graeber Previously Described Himself as an ‘Eternal Optimist’

In 2018, Graeber told The New Statesman that he was born in New York to self-educated parents. His father, Kenneth, fought on the side of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, Graeber said. Later, Graeber’s father worked as a plate stripper and his mother, Ruth, worked as a garment worker. Graeber said his mother was active in the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. Graeber said in the interview that he was raised in an environment that embraced anarchism.

The interview concluded with Graeber saying that he thought of himself as an “eternal optimist.” Graeber added that he felt that in 50 years a new system would be in place that was not capitalist. Graeber warned, “It could be something even worse. It’s therefore imperative that we end this taboo around trying to figure out something that might be better. If we don’t get something better, it will be something worse – it won’t be the same.”

4. Graeber Married His Wife Nika Dubrovsky in April 2019

Graeber married Nika Dubrovsky in April 2019. On April 25, Dubrovsky tweeted a photo of the couple with the caption, “Going for a wedding.” Graeber retweeted the photo and added, “I’ve never been married before.” He also said, “I have never been more moved than that someone who actually knows me would want to be with me forever.”

Graeber has tweeted in the past that his wife is a native of St. Petersburg, Russia, and grew up in the Soviet-era. Graeber tweeted that his wife struggled to watch the United Kingdom’s public broadcaster the BBC because it reminded her too much of the Soviet propaganda of her youth. In 2019, the couple founded Yes Women, an art group that sought justice for ostracized women in the former East Germany.

5. Graeber Is Being Mourned on Social Media by His Peers as One of the Greatest Minds of His Generation

As news spread of Graeber’s death, his peers as well as his fans, took to Twitter to mourn him. Here are some of the most poignant messages of remembrance:

"David Graeber was truly a friend of the women's struggle and the revolution in Rojava. The world has lost his presence, but his light lives on in every person who struggles for freedom. Rest in peace, comrade #davidgraeber pic.twitter.com/KVhs0WnaHs"

— Kongra Star Women's Movement Rojava (@starrcongress) September 3, 2020

"We have just learnt with great grief the death of @davidgraeber yesterday.

David, famous anthropologist scholar, was a great friend and supporter of the Kurdish Freedom Movement; traveling to Rojava, speaking about the revolution and participating to many demos.

Rest in Power! pic.twitter.com/Nvb8WOyg97"

— Internationalist Commune of Rojava (@IntCommune) September 3, 2020

"So terribly sad to hear about @davidgraeber's passing. People will be sharing a lot of his brilliant public intellectual work, but Graeber was an outstanding, unmatched theorist in anthropology. His ability to link the two forms of writing was awe inspiring."

— Arsalan Khan (@akkhan81) September 3, 2020

"Oh David! @davidgraeber. They say only the good die young, but why did you have to be one of them?

There's even more bullshit in the world now that you are no longer with us.

It was a pleasure to know you, and it is a tragedy to say goodbye."

— Steve Keen (@ProfSteveKeen) September 3, 2020

There are 18 Comments

didn't like his anthropology, didn't like his activism (and if indeed he's the one responsible for the execrable false populism of "we are the 99%" then that's another reason to loathe him), didn't like his fawning lack of critical analysis of Rojava... but it's still shitty to lose another public intellectual who, in terms of actual radical analysis and modern relevance, is light years ahead of that other guy (who just refuses to fade away or die).

The most famous anarchist in the world who is not actually an anarchist who has fans in Brazil who are suppressing information that refutes universal grammar? Yeah, he can die right off at this point. Debt has some useful teachings.

That really isn't fake populism... If you dislike populism, fine (I guess), but "unite all of the people against the elite" is pretty well expressed by "we are the 99%."

populism is the idea that the 99% have more in common with each other than they do with the 1%, which is fine (I guess); fake populism is the idea that the landlords and cops and bosses -- who are obviously part of the 99% -- have anything in common with the rest of the 99%. all populism, real and fake, requires a total abandonment of a class analysis, positing some amorphous "elite" as existing outside capitalism and the state, who mysteriously run the economy for their own narrow benefit that never trickles down to people who are "merely" wealthy and don't have to work for a living. it's a truncated analysis that fits in really well with the mythology of meritocracy and the general anti-intellectualism of american culture. in moments of economic crisis for a multi-ethnic middle and working classes, populism lines up on the left -- as it did during Occupy; in moments of existential crisis for the *white* middle and working class, populism lines up on the right -- as it's doing right now. populism has nothing to do with anarchism, except by accident, and that's always a short-lived and temporary phenomenon.

But you gotta admit, whether the populism is either left or right, there is the common denominator of all populists having a simplified perception of social power and its consequences, or bad math skills, but definitely stupid.

Bah! The elite is not amorphous, and even landlords, bosses and cops (odious as most of those are) don't have the capability to like, nuke cities. Populism is the only way we're ever gonna get anything accomplished (who exactly do you think is going to carrying out the revolution if not the Great Unwashed) - one of the great mistakes of the classical anarchist movement was abandoning a populist conception of class (yes, "the people" vs. "the elite") for Marxist gibberish. We know how well that turned out.

What are the classes? How can they be divvied up to suite our revolutionary purposes? Proletariat and boog were early industrial revolution europe, i feel like we gotta make new ones.

so big abstract identities (like class) can be used to understand structural concepts like labour exploitation, it's a useful 101 thing when somebody is first learning about how they're getting fucked over BUUUT

imo when you move on to the what-to-do question, categorizing people doesn't help you as much. it's mostly for appealing to large groups of strangers in a manipulative way, like, with propaganda... that isn't very anarchist.

unless you're just make anarchist media and going up against the billion dollar corporate psy-ops war machines with your cute little dimestore water pistol! which is coool, ya know, whatevs lol

however, if some marxist writer were to make a book about all the different classes that exist in late globalist capitalism, i would totally read it just for the sake of learning about other people...

Sour grapes from the usual duds and spuds -- long live anarchie! And Jughead and Betty and Veronica and Reggie...

RIP, David

turns out that after veering off into Rojava delirium, he became even more stupid. i say this is a self-excommunication from anarchism in particular, and radicalism in general. at least Bookchin stopped supporting Bernie Sanders after he made it to congress...

"Dr. Graeber became involved in British politics last year, supporting the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the general election as “a beacon of hope in the struggle against emergent far-right nationalism, xenophobia and racism in much of the democratic world.”

sorry, forgot to mention that the quote is from the New York Times obituary

Its a shame he didn't write sci-fi about 5000 yrs in the future of a society without currency or the concept of debt and social reciprocity.

Yes I chose the wrong word to describe an impromptu association of individuals. Also, by social reciprosity I was focusing on currency, sometimes the term is used to describe empathetic exchange, which is fine.

Graeber from marketing, the pitch, us and them methodology, the big 99% vs 1% evil. No inquiry into the 99%'s core values, just put as many as you can onto YOUR side, invest in identity fetishism, recruit all the other fetishists, commodity, gender, race, religion, because populism is about finding a common need and feeding it. In fact, ironically, Graeber's 1% are inside his 99% demographic. The richest and most powerful are fetishists.
The true 1% are the good guys, the anti-fetishists, the individualists who mind their own business and avoid mob rule.

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