Contributions from David Graeber

David Graeber is no longer with us in the flesh.

Anthropologist David Graeber, the man behind ‘We are the 99%’ slogan, dead at 59
An anthropology professor at London School of Economics, Graeber was known for his books criticizing and deconstructing the capitalist system, including ‘Debt: the First 5000 Years,’ ‘Bulls*** Jobs: a Theory,’ and ‘The Utopia of Rules.’ Multiple collections of his essays on topics including economics and debt, empire and geopolitics, as well as creativity and alienation have also been published.

It’s fair to say David was a major contributor to Critical Thinking’s analysis of debt and helped to validate our ideas around sharing the wealth of the commons.

Usury and theft of the commons are two of the three fundamental flaws that underpin today’s abusive and destructive political economy, the third being institutional hierarchy.

Hierarchy and the Political Economy
Critical Thinking at the Free University is a non-hierarchical, apolitical, collaborative research and education project that analyses the current political economy to identify fundamental flaws and potential levers for change. The organisation aims to understand the historical context of issues from different perspectives and explore their current and future impacts on social cohesion, inequality, individual liberty and civilisation as we know it. Critical Thinking has developed a unified theory of political economy and proposes action to create a freer, fairer world.

Arguably, hierarchy is the knottiest conundrum to unpick and Davids Graeber and Wengrove’s explanation of the emergence of institutional hierarchy and our ancestors’ innate intellectual sophistication has been invaluable in ascertaining whether institutional hierarchy is an inevitable social structure. Rather than stumbling blindly into hierarchical governance structures, pre-literate societies appear to have been well aware of the problems associated with permanent hierarchical institutions but were happy to create temporary hierarchies.

Palaeolithic Politics
David Graeber and David Wengrow discuss human evolution and hierarchy, delving through accumulated academic literature to assess how early humans organised themselves.

It is difficult to think of other individuals who’ve made such a significant, specific contribution to our work on all three flaws.

I never managed to engage with David on the substance of our analysis although we met and talked at various events during Occupy and subsequently. He also helped us to arrange an event at the LSE although he couldn’t attend.

We had our differences over the White Helmets and it’s probably the case that he wouldn’t have agreed with some of Critical Thinking’s analysis but his perspectives on the three fundamental flaws are a testimony to the co-creative learning methodology. Finding common ground, in spite of ideological impediments, is essential to create a shared understanding.

So thank you David for your tremendous contribution to our shared understanding. You will be missed but your work lives on.