Note — Nov 14, 2021

David Graeber’s Possible Worlds

In the wake of Graeber and Wengrow’s The Dawn of Everything being released, Molly Fischer for Intelligencer looks at the life and work of David Graeber. I’m not going to summarize an essay that summarizes the life of an important thinker, know that it might be the best Sunday read in this issue and a good way to nudge you/me into reading more of his work.

I shared a review of the book itself in No.193: It Didn’t Have to Be This Way.

There were societies that farmed without really committing to it, for example. There were societies whose authority figures’ power applied only during certain parts of the year. Cities coalesced without any apparent centralized government; brutal hierarchies took shape among people who later reversed their course. […]

“We are projects of collective self-creation,” write Graeber and Wengrow. “What if we approached human history that way? What if we treat people, from the beginning, as imaginative, intelligent, playful creatures who deserve to be understood as such?” […]

“One thing that always struck me about David,” she told me, “is how much he enjoyed meetings.” Under the fluorescent lights of a church basement or at Zuccotti Park, Graeber was in his element. He seemed “almost gleefully” to savor the experience of being in a group doing direct democracy. […]

In a talk at the London Review Bookshop, Graeber described changing one’s mind as a kind of “political happiness” — the pleasure of realizing that you don’t have to keep thinking the things you’ve thought before.