Nil nisi mortuum and all that

David Graeber, anthropologist and anarchist author of bestselling books on bureaucracy and economics including Bullshit Jobs: A Theory and Debt: The First 5,000 Years, has died aged 59.

On Thursday Graeber’s wife, the artist and writer Nika Dubrovsky, announced on Twitter that Graeber had died in hospital in Venice the previous day. The cause of death is not yet known.

Renowned for his biting and incisive writing about bureaucracy, politics and capitalism, Graeber was a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement and professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics (LSE) at the time of his death. His final book, The Dawn of Everything: a New History of Humanity, written with David Wengrow, will be published in autumn 2021.

He also had a slightly disturbing habit of turning up as a sock puppet in the comments sections of those who disagreed with him.

Still, interesting, talented and deluded which is a better trio than most of us will manage in this vale of tears.

27 thoughts on “Nil nisi mortuum and all that”

  1. 2-0. My day keeps getting better. Never heard of him. More importantly, I think the Ftse100 support at 6000 is starting to look shaky and the market is going to take another dump.

  2. I read the Quillette article; he sounds like a nasty piece of shit.

    Still, the irony of a professor of anthropology writing a book about bullshit jobs.

  3. Still, the irony of a professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics writing a book about bullshit jobs.

  4. An anthropologist studying the London School of Economics might produce interesting research material. Not necessarily useful but interesting.

  5. A twat, in my experience. Somewhere O/L he’d written a lengthy essay, the argument of which turned on the fact that there had been several centuries without what he called a World Empire. I wrote a comment pointing out that he’d overlooked the existence of the Ottoman Empire.

    Rather than coping with the criticism he just lost his rag and shouted. No scholar he.

  6. That bullshit jobs thing did take off in certain circles. Had a commercial lawyer “confess” to me at a dinner party- “i don’t add any value to the world, i just edit text on pieces of paper (i.e. contracts) and them sign off and they pay me inordinate amounts of money. I don’t build hospitals, or cure diseases or grow food or provide fresh water.” I mean it’s refreshing someone’s mea culpa rather than hectoring others (though the hectoring is implied). I had a go, telling them that the world’s a complex place and people’s specialisms do tend to lead to more pins being made in the factory. Sure job satisfaction was a real thing and if you had a calling to go and dig latrines in costa rica then go for it but don’t think the world’s better off if everybody did it.

  7. Hallowed Be, Harari argues in his book Sapiens that the key thing that separates humans from animals and hand has allowed us to dominate the planet and create societies is our ability to believe in and work with ‘fictions’ like religion and companies and laws and contracts as well as physical things like trees and rivers. So your lawyer chum might not think he is adding value, but without that intangible world we would still be living in small family groups in caves, throwing rocks at the neighbours. Which is where the XR muppets seem to want us to be.

  8. Who would have thought an anthropologist would turn out to be a far-Left loony and an utter cunt? It will be sociologists next, you mark my words!

  9. A professor of anthropology at the LSE
    And a professor of Economics at the anthropology department at Goldsmiths
    AN odd combination, suggesting to my cynical perspective, that he was no good at either.

  10. Dennis, Who's Got Him A Shootin' Iron

    Still, interesting, talented and deluded which is a better trio than most of us will manage in this vale of tears.

    No, it is not a better trio than most of us will manage. That particular combination often leads to oppression, violence and death. The destruction and death we see in U.S. streets today was birthed by Occupy Wall Street, and “interesting, talented and deluded” folks like Graeber were father, mother, doctor and midwife.

  11. @ Dennis
    +1
    Most of my friends are/were interesting and talented. Your post has reminded me that one of them was a Rhodes scholar and Californian wrestling champion, and funny and friendly. Bill could afford to laugh at himself and I’m not confident that a shooting iron would have been sufficient if he wasn’t friendly.
    Interesting, talented and funny trumps deluded

  12. Since there’s so much talk about fish at the moment, a timely burst of cod latin: “nothing unless a dead thing”.

    There’ll be monks doing a longish stint in purgatory for the way they taught you Latin, Tim.

  13. He was a major league twat. He had the brain power to study a jam jar of pond water and became an anthropologist. But he attempted to study modern, complex societies and, quite simply, was not up to the task. Another Trot bites the dust

  14. Bloke in North Dorset

    Novara Media are claiming they probably wouldn’t exist without him. That’s got to rate amongst his bigger crimes against humanity.

  15. @ BiND
    So he’s a minor league player [for pendants “is” because he is still playing through Novara Media] …

  16. Gus- good point. God knows law has all sorts of inefficiencies, but that ain’t the point. It’s not having law that you must compare it to.

  17. @ Gus “the key thing that separates humans from animals and has allowed us to dominate the planet and create societies is our ability to believe in and work with ‘fictions’ like religion and companies and laws and contract”

    That and guns.

  18. @ Andrew C
    Also the ability to learn how to throw stones usefully before they invented stone knives or wooden spears (the latter being precursors of arrows). However I have seen claims that the ability of early human males to keep chasing antelopes (and other game) until they collapsed with exhaustion was a/the key factor in the survival of the human race.

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