The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
From the author of the international bestseller Debt: The First 5,000 Years comes a revelatory account of the way bureaucracy rules our lives
Where does the desire for endless rules, regulations, and bureaucracy come from? How did we come to spend so much of our time filling out forms? And is it really a cipher for state violence?
To answer these questions, the anthropologist David Graeber—one of our most important and provocative thinkers—traces the peculiar and unexpected ways we relate to bureaucracy today, and reveals how it shapes our lives in ways we may not even notice…though he also suggests that there may be something perversely appealing—even romantic—about bureaucracy.
Leaping from the ascendance of right-wing economics to the hidden meanings behind Sherlock Holmes and Batman, The Utopia of Rules is at once a powerful work of social theory in the tradition of Foucault and Marx, and an entertaining reckoning with popular culture that calls to mind Slavoj Zizek at his most accessible.
An essential book for our times, The Utopia of Rules is sure to start a million conversations about the institutions that rule over us—and the better, freer world we should, perhaps, begin to imagine for ourselves.
profits for investors, that “globalization” really meant bureaucratization. We often came close. But we rarely quite out and said it. In retrospect, I think this is exactly what we should have emphasized. Even the emphasis on inventing new forms of democratic processes that was at the core of the movement—the assemblies, the spokescouncils, and so on—was, more than anything else, a way to show that people could indeed get on with one another—and even make important decisions and carry out
level of shared understandings, these can be pretty minimal. Most human relations—particularly ongoing ones, whether between longstanding friends or longstanding enemies—are extremely complicated, dense with history and meaning. Maintaining them requires a constant and often subtle work of imagination, of endlessly trying to see the world from others’ points of view. This is what I’ve already referred to as “interpretive labor.” Threatening others with physical harm allows the possibility of
logic of what they called “the Spectacle,” which rendered us passive consumers. Through these acts, we could, at least momentarily, recapture our imaginative powers. At the same time, they also felt that all such acts were small-scale dress rehearsals for the great insurrectionary moment to which they would necessarily lead—“the” revolution, properly speaking. This is what’s largely gone today. If the events of May ’68 showed anything, it was that if one does not aim to seize state power, there
imaginary cosmic administration of the Middle Ages is not entirely negated in most fantasy worlds. This is because these are almost invariably worlds where, though technology is limited to the wind and water mill level, magic actually works. And the type of magic that appears in the stories tends most often to be drawn from the Western ceremonial magic tradition that runs from ancient theurgists like Iamblichus to Victorian mages like MacGregor Mathers, full of demons invoked in magic circles,
protestors’ heads repeatedly against the concrete. As a response to Occupy, this is nothing short of pathetic. When The Dark Knight came out in 2008, there was much discussion over whether the whole thing was really a vast metaphor for the war on terror: how far is it okay for the good guys (that’s us) to go adapting the bad guy’s methods? Probably the filmmakers were indeed thinking of such issues, and still managed to produce a good movie. But then, the war on terror actually was a battle of