David Graeber, anthropologist and Author of Bullshit Jobs No More

Graeber was a professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics. He was one of the leading figures of the 'Occupy Wall Street' Movement also credited to have coined the famous 'We are the 99%'.

david graeber

David Graeber, a man who wore many hats, an anthropologist, activist, and author of best-selling books on jobs, economy, and society including Debt: The First 5,000 Years and Bullshit Jobs: A Theory has died aged 59 in a hospital in Venice, Italy.

His wife Nika Dubrovsky informed about this death through twitter.


Graeber was until yesterday active on twitter and had posted a video on YouTube on 28 August saying that he had been feeling “a little under the weather” but that he was also beginning to feel better.

Graeber was a professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics. He was one of the leading figures of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Movement also credited to have coined the famous ‘We are the 99%’.

He has done extensive anthropological work in Madagascar, writing his doctoral thesis (The Disastrous Ordeal of 1987: Memory and Violence in Rural Madagascar) on the continuing social division between the descendants of nobles and the descendants of former slaves.

Debt: The First 5,000 years and Bullshit Jobs

Debt: The First 5,000 Years the book was published in 2011. The book explores the historical relationship of debt with social institutions such as barter, marriage, friendship, slavery, law, religion, war, and government; in short, much of the fabric of human life in society. It draws on the history and anthropology of a number of civilizations, large and small, from the first known records of debt from Sumer in 3500 BC until the present.

The book won the inaugural Bread and Roses Award for radical literature, and the 2012 Bateson Award of the American Society for Cultural Anthropology.

The New York Review of Books called the book “an encyclopedic survey...an authoritative account of the background to the recent crisis…an exhaustive, engaging, and occasionally exasperating book”.

The Globe and Mail said, “This is a big book of big ideas: Within its 500 pages, you’ll find a theory of capitalism, religion, the state, world history and money, with evidence reaching back more than 5,000 years, from the Inuit to the Aztecs, the Mughals to the Mongols”.

Much of Graeber’s recent scholarship has focused on the topic of nature of work and “bullshit jobs,” proliferated by bureaucracy and what Graeber calls “managerial feudalism”. One of the points he raises in his 2013 book The Democracy Project – on the Occupy movement – is the increase in what he calls bullshit jobs, referring to forms of employment that even those holding the jobs feel should not or do not need to exist. He sees such jobs as being typically “concentrated in professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers”.

In addition to his academic work, Graeber had a history of both direct and indirect involvement in political activism, including membership in the labor union Industrial Workers of the World, a role in protests against the World Economic Forum in New York City in 2002, support for the 2010 UK student protests and an early role in the Occupy Wall Street movement. He was a co-founder of the Anti-Capitalist Convergence.

Public Reaction to his Death

The news of his sudden demise saw an outpour of support from fans remembering him and how his impact on their lives.These include his colleagues, members of Labour party, UK to world leaders.


Also Read: Remembering Premchand writings amidst the rise of inequality and communalism in India


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May 2023


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