Book Review: Debt: The First 5000 Years (in-progress)

David Graeber’s Wikipedia entry starts with “David Rolfe Graeber is an American anthropologist and anarchist“. Already you know things are going to be interesting.

I first heard of this book and Graeber in connection to the Occupy Wall Street protests. Apparently he played some part in starting them. He also was involved in the anti-corporate globalization protests of the late 1990s. Then I heard a reference to this book from none other than a Financial Times reporter. Okay, then. If the business press is interested in reading a book on money and debt by an anarchist anthropologist, I’ll bite.

I loved the cover. It’s a very effective illusion – I really thought that the cashier had placed my receipt on the book itself.

The book’s size looks intimidating, but it shouldn’t be. About a quarter to a third of the book is endnotes, and the main text is very straight-forwardedly written, which is a pleasure. Graeber covers a ridiculous amount of ground, but does so fairly thoroughly and entertainingly. Near the end, the quality craps out a little bit, and it seems a bit more hand-wavy. This, along with the rather large number of typos, leads me to suspect that the book was rushed out the door. The book is timely, to say the least, and so I can forgive it those flaws.

I’m marking this as in-progress because I read the book quickly, and I mean to re-read it more carefully and talk in more detail about the book’s contents. Until then, I’ll just say that the book talks about the following:

  • that the State and the Market were born together
  • that world systems have shifted between debt and coinage
  • that coinage and precious metals coincide with war and plunder
  • that debt is related to slavery
  • various non-monetary cultures, and
  • how daily life is a mixture of market relations, small non-monetary debts, and communism.

I highly recommend this book to anyone even remotely interested in the current economic crisis.

You can find it on isbn.nu.

If you are intrigued by this review, you can read Graeber’s essay Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, which has some of the ideas of _Debt_ in an embryonic form.

Transcription/Translation of Félix Guattari – Université de Vincennes 1975 (In-progress)

This video is the top Google video result for “Guattari“. The top two comments for this video say “what Guattari is describing in this lecture is Facebook. It’s beyond unnerving. In 1975.” and “Guattari avait en 1975 deja prevu Meetic et tout le delire d aujourd hui de rechercher l ame soeur sur Internet” (Guattari had in 1975 already foreseen Meetic [a dating site like Match.com] and all of today’s delirium about finding a soulmate on the internet). This sounds very interesting, but it’s in French with Italian subtitles that are in places obscured by the TV station logo.

I transcribed the Italian subtitles as best I could, doing some spell-checking and spot-checking with Google Translate. I hope to transcribe the French, which will take a lot more time, and from there attempt an English translation.

Continue reading “Transcription/Translation of Félix Guattari – Université de Vincennes 1975 (In-progress)”

Book Review: A Hacker Manifesto (In-Progress)

“Information wants to be free but is everywhere in chains.”

In an interview, Slavoj Zizek points out (page 80 of The Anti-Capitalism Reader):

[A]t the most elementary level, Marx’s concept of exploitation presupposes a certain labor theory of value. If you take this away from Marx, the whole edifice of his model disintegrates. What do we do with this today, given the importance of intellectual labor? Both standard solutions are too easy – to claim that there is still real physical production going on in the Third World, or that today’s programmers are a new proletariat.

In A Hacker Manifesto, McKenzie Wark attempts to tackle this problem, re-interpreting and adapting Marx to our current age. He does it with insight, wit, and poetic flair, but he is not always easy to follow, particularly if you are not already familiar with some Marxian jargon. This book review is also an attempt to help you interpret and understand what the book is trying to say.

It is still unfinished; I am editing it online. It will be marked as “in-progress” until I am done. In fact, right now it is just a series of notes. I have just finished reading the book, but need to think about it, rehash, perhaps re-read, and start all over again.


Glossary

Need to start a glossary. abstraction, adequacy (special meaning in philosophy), alienation, appropriation, bifurcation, capitalist, class, commodification, commodity, communication, contingent, envelope, expression, flow, hack, hacker class, hacking, history, information, interiority, nature, necessity, object, pastoralist, productive classes, production, recuperation (special meaning in philosophy/Marxism), representation, second nature, spectacle, stock, subject, subjectivity, surplus, telesthesia, third nature, vector, vectoralist, virtuality


A friend lended me A Hacker Manifesto by McKenzie Wark. Already upon opening the book, I noticed something strange. I went to see how many pages it had by turning to the back and looking for page numbers. There are none. But I can tell you it is 389 paragraphs long.

I started turning pages from the front of the book, and saw this:

ABSTRACTION CLASS EDUCATION HACKING HISTORY INFORMATION NATURE PRODUCTION PROPERTY REPRESENTATION REVOLT STATE SUBJECT SURPLUS VECTOR WORLD WRITINGS

Continue reading “Book Review: A Hacker Manifesto (In-Progress)”