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.
This essay collection from anthropologist Graeber is an utterly fascinating study of bureaucracy's role in modern life. He grounds readers first in the institution's history and then in the corporatization of contemporary discourse, showing that bureaucracy is merely a substitute for state-sponsored violence. He highlights how, as countries are modernized, bureaucracies ostensibly displace the old elite, but in reality merely reemploy and rebrand them while seeking to justify their own existence. Finally, Graeber demonstrates how corporatization is killing innovation. His book argues that, despite all these failings, bureaucracy is intensely appealing to the human brain because it places structures, rituals, and rules over systems that can otherwise seem meaningless. As an example of its insidious appeal, Graeber points to how pop culture constantly positions characters functioning within bureaucracies as rebels, even as those characters continue to tacitly justify the institutions they seemingly rebel against (see: every cop show ever). Readers familiar with Graeber's work will know the caliber of discourse he brings to the table: not all of his thoughts are unique, but they are wonderfully presented and wholly accessible. This is a rare treat that will amuse as easily as it unsettles, as readers struggle to reframe their own perceptions and open their eyes to Graeber's insights.