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Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (Paradigm) 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0972819640
ISBN-10: 0972819649
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Everywhere anarchism is on the upswing as a political philosophy—everywhere, that is, except the academy. Anarchists repeatedly appeal to anthropologists for ideas about how society might be reorganized on a more egalitarian, less alienating basis. Anthropologists, terrified of being accused of romanticism, respond with silence . . . . But what if they didn't?

This pamphlet ponders what that response would be, and explores the implications of linking anthropology to anarchism. Here, David Graeber invites readers to imagine this discipline that currently only exists in the realm of possibility: anarchist anthropology.

About the Author

David Graeber is an assistant professor of anthropology at Yale University. He has published widely on his research in Madagascar and on anthropological theories of value.
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Product Details

  • Series: Paradigm
  • Paperback: 102 pages
  • Publisher: Prickly Paradigm Press; 1 edition (April 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0972819649
  • ISBN-13: 978-0972819640
  • Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 0.6 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
If there is any question thrown at organizers within the various tendrils of the global justice movement intended to make our efforts appear utopian and unrealizable, it would have to be "I understand what you're against, but what are you for?" The implicit idea being that there is no reason to believe that another world is possible in more than a rhetorical sense, or at least not examples to prove such is possible. Frequently those of us who dream of a liberated world without a market or state structures turn to anthropology for inspiration from the thousands of years of human history where such didn't exist. Anthropologists, worried about being accused of romanticizing populations, have generally responded to these inquiries with a confused silence.

In Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology Yale based anthropologist and political activist David Graeber asks, "what if that wasn't the case?" Drawing from the rich history of ethnographic materials and anthropological records as well as critical theory and current practices within the global justice movement Graeber demonstrates that there is an endless variety of revolutionary political and social organization to draw from. Rejecting both the Hobbesian fable of the "war of all against all" and the blatant forms of racism and Eurocentrism used to argue that so called "primitive" societies have no bearing on and are completely removed from the world we live in, Graeber explores the endless variety of political and organization which have existed throughout the world.
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Format: Paperback
The book is meant to be examined not as a coherent set of theories or practices for instituting anarchist methods, but is instead, as the title indicates, meant to reveal fragments and pieces of an anarchist approach to society. Previous reviews mention the "dark side of humanity", or "basic human nature", but they would seem to assume much about the inner workings of human beings. It is not altogether absurd to forsee an interest in anarchist practice more broadly as people continue to see what results from the use and abuse of power. Graeber's book is a thought experiment, an attempt to envision an alternative to what we have now, not a manifesto pointing out exactly what should be done. He has excellent critiques of what we currently view as "democracy", and also does a thoughtful job examining Pierre Clastres' work "Society Against the State", as well as offering examples of groups which were much more egalitarian in nature, including those that broke away from states to become so.
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Format: Paperback
David Graeber's highly engaging contribution to social theory doesn't claim to say anything particularly "new" about anarchist social movements. Rather, he seeks to link academic anthropology's body of knowledge (about "actually-existing self-governing communities" in the world today) to the utopian desires of global anarchism. Forging this link, Graeber intuits, would help academic social theory escape the pretension of prescribing radicalism and would instead attune it to already-existing utopian political practices. In this regard, Graeber's work is a modest attempt at transforming how we go about thinking *and* doing revolutionary strategy.

The book is really a long essay that stakes out various positions in what Graeber says is a "non-existent science." Weary of academics who flaunt their leftist credentials while leading privileged lifestyles, Graeber uses anarchism to explain how theory and practice might be brought into dynamic consonance: "[Anarchism] is primarily concerned with forms of practice; it insists, before anything else, that one's means must be consonant with one's ends; one cannot create freedom through authoritarian means; in fact, as much as possible, one must oneself, in one's relations with one's friends and allies, embody the society one wishes to create." Basing his view of academic work on anarchist principles, then, Graeber argues that the knowledge one makes must have a real, practical relation to the politics one imagines.

This book is a breath of fresh air in the otherwise moribund sphere of academic social theory.
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Format: Paperback
In this book, "Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology", Graeber presents alternatives to the social systems we have presumed are our only paradigms. He points to successful anarchist organizations (and experiments) worldwide as a potential directions for Western societies to follow. What Graeber doesn't address is the complex role of humanity's "dark side" or the difficulties of integrating a technological society into a harmonious utopian anarchist whole. However, the book is commendable as it defends anarchy as an existing social alternative and charges the reader to consider how it could possibly be implemented.
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