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Graeber’s New Book is Out: Direct Action: An Ethnography

For those who have read closely here, I am an inspiree of David Graeber’s ethnographic Anarchism work. And his new book has just been released by A K Press, found here. Yet to sample it of course, though he was kind enough to share with me some of the theoretical issues he has recently been facing and his possible solutions, so it surely is to touch on some of the necessarily non-Marxist responses to contemporary society, in particular an address of the relative dearth of anarchistic theorizing, here taken on in practical terms (let’s face it, Anarchists don’t really like to over-determine political action with the kinds of principles and discussion that most academics love to quibble endlessly about). By means of recommendation David himself says that he has read it, and its not so bad.

From the publisher:

In the best tradition of participant-observation, anthropologist David Graeber undertakes the first detailed ethnographic study of the global justice movement. Starting from the assumption that, when dealing with possibilities of global transformation and emerging political forms, a disinterested, “objective” perspective is impossible, he writes as both scholar and activist. At the same time, his experiment in the application of ethnographic methods to important ongoing political events is a serious and unique contribution to the field of anthropology, as well as an inquiry into anthropology’s political implications.

The case study at the center of Direct Action is the organizing and events that led to the dramatic protest against the Summit of the Americas in Québec City in 2001. Written in a clear, accessible style (with a minimum of academic jargon), this study brings readers behind the scenes of a movement that has changed the terms of debate about world power relations. From informal conversations in coffee shops to large “spokescouncil” planning meetings and teargas-drenched street actions, Graeber paints a vivid and fascinating picture. Along the way, he addresses matters of deep interest to anthropologists: meeting structure and process, language, symbolism, representation, the specific rituals of activist culture, and much more.

David Graeber is an anthropologist and activist who teaches at the University of London. Active in numerous direct-action political organizations, he is the author of Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology; Towards an Anthropological Theory of Value; and Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire.

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2 responses to “Graeber’s New Book is Out: Direct Action: An Ethnography

  1. Eric August 19, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I’m still waiting for my copy of ‘Towards an Anthropological Theory of Value’ to arrive. My greatest issue with Graeber, having read ‘Fragments’ and several essays, is his writing style. It is certainly a breath of fresh air after reading, say, Bourdieu, but I find it rather ingratiating and distracting. I do greatly appreciate the political employment of Marcel Mauss’s work, though; and Graeber’s ideas about communism and exchange expressed in this discussion remind me quite a bit of Gustav Landauer, one of my favorite (and one of the most sadly neglected) anarchist thinkers: http://www.brh.org.uk/video/panel.html

    • kvond August 19, 2009 at 4:34 pm

      I agree some with Graeber. I would much rather hear a lecture by him, than read him, though I don’t find the same flaws in his writing that you do. I very much like his ideas, but his writing style is just a bit disorganized (which is an ironic thing to say about an Anarchist). I want him to pull this conceptual thread through more, focus them a bit. But this may only be an aesthetic issue. I hope you like his Theory of Value, as it is his best work, having not read his most recent. I still return to its ideas again and again.

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