Let me inaugurate this, my blog, my very own blog, by pointing you to this excellent comment thread at Crooked Timber — which is such an ideal speech community that it actually features somebody named “Substance McGravitas” — where Mike Beggs’ review of David Graeber’s Debt is being debated as we speak.
Having come to the thread a staunch partisan of Mike’s negative take on Debt, I have to say, without revising that judgment, that some of the comments make a pretty good case for the book. See especially the exchange between Mike and the excellent JW Mason, which starts off in a sharp tone but ends with a sweet rapprochement, eliciting awwws from the studio audience.
Still and all: I’m still vulgar, and still an empiricist, so let me reproduce my favorite comment in the thread, from the legendary Dan Davies, which only seems vicious because it’s so on target:
The trouble is that it always ends up in “and therefore the entire system needs to be restructured on the basis of cough mumble* and then we will have a system with all the warmth and personal relationships of primitive peoples** but also even better technology because independent engineers will form anarchist collectives and design better iPhones*** and this would all have happened anyway apart from un-named shadowy villains at the top of the US government**** who exploit us all!”. The whole thing seems to be going in a direction of a critique, but it doesn’t end up with an actual critique; it’s a collection of shaggy dog stories, with a terrible case of Last Chapter Disease (in which he goes on about the “bad assets” of the subprime lenders without even noticing that they’re only “bad”precisely because the institution of debt has developed in order to allow the borrowers to stop paying and return the keys. I liked the book as an interesting read, but I did change my mind in response to the author’s behaviour, because it’s clear that he wants it to be read as a programmatic document along the lines of the Grundrisse or Capital, and on those lines it’s weak as hell.
* but certainly not any sort of “bureaucracy” or “central planning”
** But our lives will be nothing like those of ritual-dominated, institutionally sexist and clannish developing world cultures! How could anyone possibly interpret me as saying that!
*** Just like they did at Apple! Or perhaps not Apple but it definitely happened. Or maybe it didn’t but in any case why can’t you just get off my case! The point is perfectly clear. It happens all the time. Or it could, anyway, maybe.
**** I absolutely didn’t say that the US government was threatening everyone else with war and that’s why we don’t have anarchosyndicalist iPhones! That is clearly a wilfull misreading that only an actual fascist could have made! Bastardbastardbastard! WHY IS EVERYONE MISINTERPRETING ME???
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